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Using open source to help the earth

Apr 22, 2024


Paull Young

Diving into Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Paull (GitHub): Kakani, I would love for you to tell us about MBARI’s FathomNet project and the work you’re currently doing.

Kakani (MBARI): MBARI cares about building technology and approaches that allow us to study a changing ocean. FathomNet, in particular, is really focused on how to monitor biological systems at scale in the ocean. This is incredibly important when talking about sustainability and climate change, as we have no idea how the blue economy and blue energy projects that are being pushed into the ocean will impact these existing biological communities. We hope that FathomNet will unleash the power of AI in the ocean, enabling the future of conservation, exploration, and discovery.

Paull: I saw that you’ll be coming out with a mobile game soon—what’s the story behind that and how does it tap into the work you’re already doing?

Kakani: We have actually created a game that will be launching in May called FathomVerse. We’ll be pushing data with machine-generated proposals to players who will identify what these different images are, and then community consensus labels will be created and pushed to FathomNet.

This was created because there are a limited number of experts in the world that can identify an animal down to a species or genus level from a visual or an image. But there are actually quite a few individuals in the world—from ocean enthusiasts to people who took a marine biology course—that could identify things that would have value to the research community.

Paull: Do you need any training for that or can anyone download it and help contribute to your mission?

Kakani: You’ll get training through the game and feedback throughout. FathomNet is a source of labeled data and this is mixed in with the unlabeled data in the game. So, you’ll get instant feedback when you’re right or wrong or miss something, but then you’ll also receive delayed feedback on how you compared to the rest of the community consensus.

Paull: I love this. It’s the nature of open source data that’s underpinning this entire game and experience.

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