Nature management and conservation
The methods usually employed in insect monitoring have several drawbacks. They are expensive, resource intensive, often unreliable, destructive (monitored insects are killed), and useful for a short period only, hampering long-term trend analysis throughout the season. The Dutch branch of the European Invertebrate Survey (EIS), in cooperation with Naturalis Biodiversity Center, is looking to develop a new type of insect trap that overcomes these drawbacks.
"Identifying species, estimating biomass"
This automated camera trap combines a digital camera aimed at a screen - similar to ones used in glue traps, but without adhesives - in a semi-permanent setup that can be left outside for longer periods of time. Combined with software that uses deep-learning techniques, these non-deadly camera traps will be able to contribute to two goals: identifying species and estimating biomass.
Pictures taken by the camera traps will be analyzed with the aim of establishing the number of insects present, as well as their size, from which biomass estimates will be derived. Ideally, insects will also be identified on the taxonomic levels of order and family. Deep learning software will be employed for three tasks: isolating individual insects in the frame, identifying each individual insect, and estimating biomass. Most of the basic algorithms are already available and have been used in earlier projects. However, they will require further development and finetuning. Initially, all image processing will be done centrally, away from the camera traps themselves. Once a reliable detection algorithm has been developed, it will be deployed on the computers running the camera traps.
Camera trap for insects in the press:
- Deze slimme camera telt en herkent insecten, de Volkskrant, 7 September 2018 (in Dutch)
- Insecten in de val, Reformatorisch Dagblad, 5 September 2018 (in Dutch)
- Automatisch insecten tellen en herkennen, Vroege Vogels, 2 September 2018 (radio podcast, in Dutch)
- Automatische camera om insecten te tellen en te herkennen, Nature Today, 24 May 2018 (in Dutch)
Achteruitgang insectenpopulaties in Nederland, report by Wageningen Environmental Research (PDF, in Dutch)