AI Systems Can Now Identify Microscopic Marine Organisms

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According to the latest study, a new AI programme has been discovered. This programme has the ability to automatically provide species-level identification of microscopic marine organisms. This new invention in the AI domain has been made by researchers from all over the world. The next step in this initiative is to incorporate the AI into a robotic system. Thus enabling the researchers to understand the world’s oceans, both now and in the prehistoric past.

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An associate professor from the Carolina State University stated, “At this point, the AI correctly identifies the forams about 80 per cent of the time, which is better than most trained humans. But this is only the proof of concept. We expect the system to improve over time, because machine learning means the programme will get more accurate and more consistent with every iteration.” Read on to know more about this AI invention.

What is the AI System About?

The AI programme has proven to be capable of identifying six species of foraminifera. Along with that it also proves that organisms that have been prevalent in Earth’s oceans for over 100 million years. Forams are protists, they are neither plant nor animal. When they die, they leave behind their tiny shells, most less than a millimetre wide. These shells give scientists insights into the characteristics. This is has been proved according to the study published in the journal Marine Micropaleontology.

Researchers are of the opinion that they plan to expand the AI’s purview so that it can identify at least 35 species of forams, rather than the current six. This will enable them to have a deeper understanding of the whole system and expand it further.

How does the System Function?

It has been proved that the current system works by placing a foram under a microscope capable of taking photographs. An LED ring shines light onto the foram from 16 directions, one at a time. This takes an image of the foram with each change in light. The 16 images are then combined to provide as much geometric information as possible about the foram’s shape. The AI system further uses the acquired information to identify the foram’s species. Researchers said that the work demonstrates the successful first step toward building a robotic platform that will be able to identify, pick and sort forams automatically.

Why is this AI System Important?

This AI system is a matter of concern because humanity is in the midst of an unintentional, global-scale climate ‘experiment’ due to our emission of greenhouse gases. It has been said that to predict the outcomes of that experiment we need a better understanding of how Earth’s climate behaves when its energy balance is altered. The new AI, and the robotic system will enable to significantly expedite our ability to learn more about the relationship between the climate and the oceans across vast time scales.

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The whole point of this AI system is that the forams are ubiquitous in our oceans, and the chemistry of their shells records the physical and chemical characteristics of the waters that they grew in. These tiny organisms bear witness to past properties like temperature, salinity, acidity and nutrient concentrations. In turn we can use those properties to reconstruct ocean circulation and heat transport during past climate events.

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