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Tuesday, April 10 • 11:00am - 11:15am
SYMPOSIA-09: BloomFinder: Leveraging Crowdsourced Data to Understand Climate Change Impacts on Mountain Wildflowers in the Western USA

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AUTHORS: Ian Breckheimer*, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

ABSTRACT: As climate change accelerates, tracking its impact on ecosystems is becoming both more important and more challenging, revealing the limits of environmental monitoring strategies based on traditional data sources. New advancements in computer vision technology (“deep learning”) have recently made it feasible to extract observations of important ecological events from streams of publically available georeferenced photographs. Here I describe the development and preliminary results from BloomFinder, a project that uses computer vision to track wildflower blooms in crowd-sourced photographs of mountain meadow ecosystems in the western USA. Our preliminary work with the Flickr photo database indicates that 15% of the approximately 1.1 million accurately georeferenced photographs available from 38 meadow study sites from 2009 – 2016 contain wildflowers, and our preliminary results show strong relationships between flower timing and climate that vary predictably across the varied geographies and ecologies of the Western USA. Although our database of human-classified training photos is still under construction, we expect that cutting-edge computer vision tools will soon be able to identify a substantial fraction of these flowers to species. These observations, augmented with traditional field data and remote-sensing, will allow us to reconstruct spatial patterns of flowering for hundreds of taxa at continental scales.

Tuesday April 10, 2018 11:00am - 11:15am CDT
Adams Room