Click For Photo: https://www.sciencedaily.com/images/2019/01/190123105757_1_540x360.jpg
Their recently published study explains how hard it can be when it comes to wildlife classification -- even experts have difficulty agreeing on whether a cat in a picture is a bobcat or a lynx.
Biology Professor Karen Hodges and master's student TJ Gooliaff collected and compared wildlife images for several years as part of their research tracking bobcat and lynx distributions in British Columbia. Camera trapping and solicitation of wildlife pictures through citizen science have become common tools in ecological research, explains Gooliaff.
Images - Animals - Species - Species - Classification
While it's generally easy to collect many images of animals, some species are difficult to tell apart, making species classification challenging.
"Camera-trapping and citizen-science studies collect many wildlife images for which correct species classification is crucial," says Gooliaff. "Even low misclassification rates can result in erroneous estimation of the geographic range or habitat use of a species -- including underestimation of the occupancy, habitat preferences or distribution of a species. This potentially hinders conservation and management efforts."
Species - Mountain - Goats - Porcupines - Others
There are some species, such as mountain goats and porcupines, where it's obvious. But for others, including bears, deer, lemurs, wild cats and antelopes, classification to a species may be unreliable as the animals can be similar in size, shape or colour. It gets even trickier when the pictures are blurry, taken in poor lighting, show only part of the animal or when only one image is available for a given animal.
In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, Gooliaff and Hodges solicited 4,399 images of bobcats and lynx from the public across British Columbia to examine the provincial distribution of each species. They used pictures, trapping records and other data sources to develop current range maps.
Lynx - Bobcats - Gooliaff - Hodges - Agreement
Because lynx and bobcats are similar, Gooliaff and Hodges then measured agreement among experts who were asked to distinguish between bobcats and lynx from...
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