Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Launching Project AviPulse : Technology for Bird Conservation

After several months of relentless efforts by Bhavin Chandarana, Pallavi Hujband and myself, Project AviPulse www.avipulse.com has finally launched! I have always wanted to give back to nature nad to the avian fauna the world offers - And the time has come. Project AviPulse has emerged out of a passion for birds, birdwatching, ornithology and now bird conservation.

Project AviPulse aims to improve bird conservation through:
  • Creation of knowledge
  • Generation of awareness
  • Appropriate use of technology
We implement cutting edge technology, through collaborations with research institutes like IIT Madras and IIT Bombay, that aid in census, bird identification and bird conservation as a whole.

Current work focuses on:
  • Sound processing tool for bird identification from calls / recordings (IIT Bombay collaboration)
  • Image processing tool for bird identification from images (IIT Mandi collaboration)
  • Comprehensive database creation for bird features to aid in bird identification via a feature-based probabilistic search
  • Bird visualization tool to interactively identify a bird based on observations made in the field (University of California, Berkeley collaboration)
  • Field trips and on-field conservation activities
Apart from these, we also develop databases for research and education purposes and are currently developing a curriculum for wildlife conservation as a course to be taught to school students.

The Impact

Once established, tools developed by Project AviPulse  can be used by scientists, naturalists and bird-watchers around the world. The impact areas are:
  • Census : The sound processing tool is being developed specifically to be able to identify species from their calls. This could improve census studies and numbering endangered species
  • Education and generation of awareness : The Bird identification tools using image and sound processing and the probabilistic search tool can help in easily identifying species. This will generate interest and the need for bird conservation can be developed.
  • Exploration : The data visualization tool can be used for education and exploration purposes, in order to visualize the biodiversity in avifauna in the world backed by a database of distribution ranges for each species
The tools designed will impact all levels of individuals - scientists, naturalists, professional bird-watchers, amateur bird-watchers and students who just want to explore the amazing diversity in the avifauna of their home country! We will be one step closer in  promoting bird conservation through knowledge creation and generation of awareness.

Risks & Challenges

Since Project AviPulse is a collection of research projects implemented as tools for a social cause, we receive support from several organizations like WWF and BirdLife International for our activities. There are minimal risks in terms of competition due to the technologies being implemented, and all the tools would be free for use as web applications, thus further promoting dispersion of knowledge. The main challenges foreseen are:
  • Access to data for development of databases : Since this is a niche field, the data required to develop the databases are not available and need to be generated. We are currently generating an exhaustive feature-based database for the birds of India. In order to expand to all the birds of the world, immense effort will have to be put into database generation.
  • Collaborative work : In order to promote this form of knowledge and data-driven bird conservation, efforts will have to be put into making this available and known to people in developing countries of Africa, South-East Asia and Central America. For this to work out, collaborations with organizations (particularly Audubon societies or equivalent conservation societies) would be necessary to be able to distribute this knowledge

Project AviPulse is taking one major step ahead in technology towards the cause of bird conservation.