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Artificial intelligence used to protect sea turtles in the Galapagos


Technology software company, SAS, is leading the AI initiative

Image courtesy of SAS.

Image courtesy of SAS.

SAS is an organization dedicated to responsible innovation and using technology to ignite positive change. In line with its mission, SAS will apply crowd-driven artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help protect endangered sea turtles. SAS is working with the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies (CGS) on this project and to further research in several initiatives on the Islands in general.

According to a release from SAS,1 an app called ConserVision, will allow citizen scientists to match images of turtles' facial markings to help train a SAS computer vision model. Once the model can accurately identify turtles individually, researchers will have valuable information more quickly to better track each turtle's health and migratory patterns over periods of time. The ultimate goal from there is to allow the model to perform facial recognition on any sea turtle image, whether it comes from a conservation group or a vacationing tourist.

SAS also eventually aims to have the app identify a health index regarding growth rates, health threats, and presence data. From there, researchers can better understand temporal and spatial movement patterns of these turtles and to identify health risks due to marine debris, boat strikes, diseases, etc.

"As our challenges as a global community get increasingly more complex, we need dynamic ways to access and use information to ramp up conservation efforts," said Sarah Hiser, MSc, principal technical architect at SAS, said in the release. "By using technology like analytics, AI and machine learning to quantify the natural world, we gain knowledge to help protect ecosystems and tackle climate change."1

"For over 10 years, the Galapagos Science Center has hosted exceptional scientists doing innovative research that increases our understanding of the environment and results in positive real-world outcomes," explained UNC-Chapel Hill interim vice chancellor for research, Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, in the release. "This innovative public-private partnership with SAS will enhance the center's capacity for analyzing data that will positively impact both the environment and the people who inhabit these magnificent islands."1

SAS will help UNC CGS with 3 projects focusing on marine life, including:

  • Sea turtle facial recognition.
  • Hammerhead shark patterns.
  • Phytoplankton predictions.


SAS seeks crowd-driven AI to protect endangered sea turtles in Galapagos. News release. SAS. Published May 9, 2023. Accessed May 12, 2023. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sas-seeks-crowd-driven-ai-to-protect-endangered-sea-turtles-in-galapagos-301819633.html

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