Online database created to track reef populations

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Scientists studying coral reefs have come up with an online database that uses facial recognition technology to track ocean species by employing techniques similar to those utilized by law enforcement agencies, according to E&E Publishing.

Facial recognition software analyzes images and uses data points to scan through databases to find other pictures that match. The technology is often used to scan pictures or videos of crowds to identify suspected criminals. Police in 27 states use facial recognition software during their investigations, according to The Takeaway.

Online database tracks coral reef species

Scripps Institution of Oceanography ecologists are fine-tuning a way to use the same software to carry out studies of coral reefs. The ecologists joined forces with computer scientists from the University of California at San Diego to devise the custom application, which utilizes underwater cameras to capture images of reefs. The software can quickly analyze the image and identify a species of fish from crowded waters by extracting data from videos or photos and matching it to images stored in an online database. They started with images from a reef in French Polynesia and used them to develop 400,000 data points to start their reference database.

The software and online database are available for free. With the right technological advances, the program could eventually be applied to large-scale surveys that resource managers can use to study populations.

“The more data you have, the better ecological insight you have into success or failure of a management plan,” Scripps coral ecologist David Kline said.