Featured image: Members of the E2M research team downloading data from one of ten bioacoustics recorders installed on the Carmichael Mining Lease and 33,000ha conservation area. Image credit: Bravus Mining and Resources.

A partnership between Queensland scientists and Bravus Mining and Resources will see cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology employed to improve remote monitoring of the Black-throated Finch at the company’s Carmichael mine in Queensland.

Researchers from E2M have created an automated recogniser to capture the birds’ calls, which will support best practice monitoring of the species, and open the door for improved surveillance of other rare bird species. 

In a new scientific article published in the international journal Ecological Informatics, the E2M researchers detailed the use of machine learning to make major advances in the technology used to analyse bioacoustics data.

To support the management of the finch population, Bravus uses bioacoustics recordings to help track bird movements and to identify individual bird’s home ranges, providing insights into their day-to-day behaviour.

Whilst bird calls can be recorded and later manually analysed, automated recognisers can instantly detect the targeted bird call, providing a more accurate way to detect bird species, however, the technology typically requires numerous examples of bird vocalisations to accurately train. 

Researchers used more than 9,000 hours of audio recordings of Black-throated Finches in the Carmichael mine area to produce a more accurate and automated recogniser of the species.

Using machine learning methods more common in medical imaging analysis and natural language processing, the program was taught how to target data to improve the finch model and manage ambiguous bird calls. Machine learning is a specific type of artificial intelligence and computer science where computers imitate human learning by using data and algorithms to improve the accuracy of its performance. 

The result was an automated recogniser with a library of more than 1,000 Black-throated Finch calls and a model that can successfully identify the birds as well as human experts in the field.

The innovation comes only months after world-first research into the Black-throated Finch found populations of the bird are thriving at Bravus Mining and Resources’s Carmichael mine.

E2M Senior Ecologist John van Osta said the research was developed in consultation with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and would support the development of automated recognisers for other rare and difficult-to-survey bird species.

“The publication of this work in a respected scientific journal shows our commitment to scientific rigour and supports research and management of Black-throated Finch throughout their range,” Mr van Osta said. 

“This research will support best practice monitoring for the species and will provide valuable insights for others working to study and protect this species around Queensland.”

Bravus Mining and Resources’s Chief Operating Officer, Mick Crowe, said that this latest research and innovation helps build on the company’s work to protect the local finch population. 

“We developed a targeted Management Plan to protect local Black-throated Finches and their habitat as part of the strict environment conditions our Carmichael mine operates under. 

“Research undertaken over many years now shows those plans are working and the finches are thriving.

“However, our work is also contributing a new understanding of the species and this exciting development to unlock new monitoring technologies will help to improve the management of finch populations more broadly in Queensland.

“Innovations like this help ensure our Management Plan remains world’s best practice and that we continue to mine in a way that is responsible and creates jobs and business opportunities for regional Queenslanders for generations to come,” Mr Crowe said. 

Featured image: Members of the E2M research team downloading data from one of ten bioacoustics recorders installed on the Carmichael Mining Lease and 33,000ha conservation area. Image credit: Bravus Mining and Resources. 

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