Posted by AaronClausen
Australian Citizen Science platform NatureMapr has just turned on its first non-human, machine learning based moderator, known as Carbon AI (or “Carbon – Artificial Intelligence”). The Australian made and hosted technology is being rolled out right across Australia. The new technology will provide citizen scientists with lightning fast sighting identification while simultaneously increasing the quality of Australian biodiversity data.
Carbon AI is undergoing live testing and is being trained to identify common orchids, daisies, mammals and reptiles - at least to begin with. The non-human moderator works in unison with its expert human colleagues to participate in the identification workflow of uploaded records. Human moderators can disagree with its advice, which in turn trains the robot to become smarter over time.
Carbon AI is trained by the community and works for the community.
Category moderators are volunteer experts within the citizen science community that generously share their time and expertise within chosen categories of plant or animal species. Their backgrounds are diverse and include professional experts like retired CSIRO entomologist Kim Pullen and passionate former garbage collector, Stuart Harris, who fell in love with peacock spiders and has even had his own species named after him (See: Maratus harrisi).
“Moderators don’t have to have any formal background, they often start out as everyday citizen scientists who are passionate about nature and learn how to identify species over time” said Aaron Clausen, Founder NatureMapr. Category moderators are really the special ingredient that makes citizen science so successful, because they share so much time and invaluable expertise.
“They are amazing people who want to give back to their community and help others learn more about the plants and animals in their region. Moderators enjoy the challenge of trying to identify the thousands of sightings that come in, but it can also lead to a lot of work so we are always conscious of how precious their time is and how lucky we are to have access to them.” Mr Clausen said.
“The NatureMapr platform provides a flexible workflow that allows moderators to contribute as much or as little as they like. We are trying to better support these incredible people that make NatureMapr possible and do more to safeguard their time. Getting a machine to automatically identify the common species like magpies or eastern grey kangaroos, is one of the easiest ways we can free up our experts to focus on the tricky ones that a machine would struggle with - we don’t want to burn them out.” Mr Clausen said.
In March 2014, expert photographer and Field Guide to the Orchids of the ACT co-author Tony Wood joined Canberra Nature Map and began sharing his immense knowledge with the community through the identification of uploaded native orchid sightings.
It was controversial in 2014 because the locations of these sensitive plants had not been uploaded and managed successfully online previously – overlaying expert moderated safeguards to anybody’s plant and animal sightings was one key reason NatureMapr was created. Tony quickly gained the respect of the growing citizen science community and became NatureMapr’s first formal category moderator. Over almost 5 years, Tony generously shared his expertise to identify over 3200 native orchid sightings.
“One of the first categories we’re live testing is native orchids. Tony Wood, tragically lost his health battle in 2018 and passed away, leaving a huge hole in the community and in our knowledge of native orchids. But we’ve been able to load the expertise from Tony’s 3243 orchid identifications into Carbon AI’s machine learning model.
It means that the results of Tony’s effort and expertise can be taken forward to help future generations, forever. Knowing that kind of special knowledge isn’t lost is very powerful and is something that can be quite emotional to talk about.” Mr Clausen said.
NatureMapr encourages anybody with an interest in plants and/or animals to get in touch about learning to become a moderator. Anyone can learn to do it and it is one of the best ways to learn more about Australian biodiversity while helping to contribute to the real world outcomes that the data is used for.
Aaron Clausen, Founder NatureMapr
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