Wildlife.AI is a Taranaki-based charitable trust using artificial intelligence to support and accelerate wildlife conservation.
"We have two umbrellas; conservation projects and education," said Portia Smith, Education Programme Coordinator.
Toi Foundation funding of $30,000 helped Wildlife.AI to develop and teach Wild About AI, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programme for Year 6 to Year 9 students. The Wildlife.ai team has delivered the four-session programme to 200+ students across five Taranaki schools this year.
"We're bringing the real world into the classroom and teaching through what's actually happening out in the Tapuae Marine Reserve. Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers take Baited Underwater Videos (BUV) inside and outside the reserve to monitor fish populations. They get footage of wildlife but need help to classify it.".
The Wild about AI programme helps to streamline the classification process through citizen science and machine learning in their Spyfish Aotearoa project.
"First, students learn about marine biodiversity and the Tapuae Marine Reserve through video footage and visits from DOC rangers and speakers from Te Ara Taiao, who provide a cultural kōrero around the history of the Reserve.
Then students use a citizen science website, where they learn how to classify fish in underwater videos. That gets them thinking about scientific questions and how we could use technology in wildlife conservation.”
During the final session, the children make their own machine-learning models. We guide them through the process, and they train models to distinguish between images of blue cod and snapper," said Portia.
"We believe this project opens up students' eyes to potential careers as well as learning those core STEM subjects through real-world experience. It's also really special when they go home and share it with their parents.”
“Our vision is to scale up and make this programme available to other schools, too. We'd love to build an online education hub where students can learn and engage with our conservation projects."