Developing a new biodiversity monitoring tool!

24 Oct 2023 By WildTrack

Out here in the northwest of South Africa the quiet is magnificent, and the sunset paints the whole sky in an incredible palette of colours every night just before the dazzling stars come into view.

We’re here to test a new technique we’re developing for a biodiversity metric, using just the footprints of small mammals. There’s an incredible variety of them here, from beautiful little Rock mice, to gerbils, fat mice, elephant shrews and many more.

In our first week here we’ve collected footprints from 5 species, and there are many more to come. We’ll identify them first with morphometrics, and then with new AI models.

The aim is that we’ll be able to identify each species simply by putting an image through the AI model, providing a quick and cheap biodiversity metric that could be transformative in conservation monitoring.

The tools of the trade to gather footprints are anything but high-tech though - peanut butter, charcoal and sticky shelf paper are all it takes to collect our data. The mice get to eat out, and we get to identify their footprints!