Endangered species will be monitored on the world’s largest network of camera traps in Tasmania | The Examiner

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The secret lives of native animals are uncovered by researchers in some of the most remote areas of Tasmania with one of the world’s largest networks of specially programmed camera traps. Deadly killer wildcats are caught on camera, fiends are seen feasting, owls are snapped mid-run, while wedge-tailed eagles meander quietly through the bush. Photographs of feral cats and other Tasmanian wildlife are captured by Tasmanian researchers with their network of camera traps set up at various locations around the state. The network is used to monitor feral cat populations, but also allows researchers to discover the impact of land clearing, logging activity, tourism and bushfires on native animal populations. The camera traps take pictures after detecting animal heat and movement, which are then fed to a specially designed tool – a “deep learning computer vision algorithm, or classifier” that has been programmed to identify which type of animal was captured. Using the network, University of Tasmania researchers Dr Jessie Buettel and Professor Barry Brook track the number of feral cats in an area, their exact location and their impact on vulnerable species. But Dr Buettel said there are more than 1,300 camera sites and 600 trail cameras currently active monitoring the action of all animals in the forests. She said another 400 camera traps are expected to be deployed in remote locations in Tasmania. “So far we’ve amassed three-quarters of a million unique images of animals from 150 species, including more than 50,000 images of Tasmanian devils,” Dr Buettel said. While the cameras can identify 31 more common species, including wallabies and opossums, wildcats, Tasmanian devils, bandicoots, native rodents and some birds, researchers want to program the tool to identify all wildlife. “Our goal is to design a permanent wildlife monitoring system that automatically captures, rates and categorizes all the different species found in our forests, woodlands and grasslands,” Dr Buettel said. “It lets us know where our species are, how they select their habitat, and how they respond to changes in those habitats caused by natural disturbances like fire and human impacts like land clearing, logging and tourism.” , she said. “The challenge now is to improve our tool’s ability to classify some of our more rare and cryptic species that are not captured as often on our cameras.” Alexandra Paton, a West Coast-born natural science doctoral student, uses the network for her research on feral cats. “I will use this data to estimate feral cat densities in different parts of the state, giving us our first real idea of ​​how many cats there are in Tasmania and where they are. This will allow for more targeted monitoring and prioritization of feral cats. .”

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