Flying High with AI: Counting Pelican Breeding Pairs in the Danube Delta
Imagine flying in a small airplane over the vast wetlands of the Danube Delta on the shores of the Black Sea in Romania looking for patches of small white dots: great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus). While flying over the colonies researchers like Sebastian Bugariu from the Romanian Ornithological Society (ROS) take photos which will be used to count the number of breeding birds when back in the office. The number of breeding pairs has grown from ~5,000 pairs 15 years ago to recently ~18,000 pairs. Keeping good records of the breeding numbers is important but not an easy task. Back at the office, it can take weeks to go through the images and manually count the pelicans. Wouldn’t it be great if this process could be automated, freeing up time that could be dedicated to other important conservation? This is where the AI for Pelican challenge started.