Melanie Clapham is not the average person. As a bear biologist, she has spent over a decade studying these grizzly bears, who live in Knight Inlet in British Columbia, Canada, and developed a sense for who is who by paying attention to little things that make them different. But Clapham knows most people don’t have her eye for detail, and the bears’ appearances change dramatically over the course of a year
Tracking individual bears is important, she explained, because it can help with research and conservation of the species. Clapham teamed up with two Silicon Valley-based tech workers and together they created BearID, which uses facial-recognition software to monitor grizzly bears. So far, the project has used AI to recognize 132 of the animals individually.
While BearID is putting names to faces in the wild, Joe Hoagland is trying to do likewise on cattle ranches. Hoagland, a cattle rancher in Leavenworth, Kansas, is building an app called CattleTracs that he said will enable anyone to snap pictures of cattle that will be stored along with GPS coordinates and the date of the photo in an online database. Subsequent photos of the same animal will be able to match the earlier photographs, helping track them over time.
Beef cattle, he explained, pass through many different people and places during their lives, from producers to pasture operations to feedlots and then to meatpacking plants. There isn’t much tracking between them, which makes it hard to investigate problems like animal-based diseases that can devastate livestock and may harm people, too. Hoagland expects the app to be available by the end of the year.