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RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Citizen Science Data Assists in Food Security, Insect Data Gathering

The scientific community will use citizen science data in concert with satellite and location information to address two important issues: global food security and insect populations.

Note: TDWI’s editors carefully choose press releases related to the data and analytics industry. We have edited and/or condensed this release to highlight key features but make no claims as to the accuracy of the author's statements.

Marking National Insect Week, Earth Challenge 2020, a global citizen science partnership of the Earth Day Network, the Wilson Center, and the U.S. State Department, announced two new applications supported by Kinetica to address food security and insect populations.

To begin to explore research areas such as the threat of monocultures to global food production, Earth Challenge 2020’s citizen scientists will use the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis’ (IIASA) Picture Pile app to label pictures of different crops. These labeled images will add value to global data sets collected by the European Space Agency by providing a new reference data set that can cross-validate Earth observations. Kinetica makes sure that data from the app is flowing and stitches together different source data sets to support the documentation.

Once citizen scientists have labeled enough images, machine learning algorithms can be taught to label the remaining agricultural land documented globally. These efforts will allow scientists to identify monocultures that threaten soil nutrients, native plants, and the longer-term diversity and sustainability of the global food supply chain.

“Ensuring food supply from land increasingly under pressure is a key challenge of this century, but a lack of accurate information on the spatial distribution of major crop types hampers policy and strategic investment. Our partnership with Earth Challenge 2020 will allow us to create a new innovative crop type reference and training database, which is essential to produce accurate depictions of global food supply for agencies around the world,” noted Steffen Fritz, Earth Observation and citizen science center head and ecosystems services and management deputy program director at IIASA.

National crop coverage data in the United States is updated each decade, but hand in hand with citizen science, researchers will now be able to work with current, open, standardized, and reliable data, opening up new opportunities for study. Earth Challenge 2020 is able to take broad satellite data, add citizen science-sourced data, and create a data set that is both broad and granular, and therefore more useful to the scientific community.

“To date, citizen science is a largely untapped resource because it has been collected inconsistently by individuals, missing necessary documentation and data,” said Paul Appleby, CEO, Kinetica. “Earth Challenge 2020 breaks new ground by offering a platform that taps into the power of people to collect scientific data using the super computers we all keep in our pockets, contributing directly to meaningful scientific progress on a truly global scale.”

Earth Challenge 2020 is also releasing an application to identify insect populations, particularly three types of bee: honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees. The app will ultimately be able to help identify where native insects, like bumble bees, are located to help inform conservation policies. The app teaches users to photograph and correctly identify insects, and then upload and tag those photos by type and location. Kinetica artificial intelligence models learn what differentiates a carpenter bee from a honey bee, for example, and from there can trawl the citizen-submitted photos to verify accurate labeling. The app running on Kinetica aggregates and displays the data about what types of bees are where. This information will reveal which areas lack native bees and, in turn, face a loss of native plants and crops that require native bees for pollination. With more data than ever before, the community of concerned citizens and scientists can work together on conservation efforts.

Earth Challenge 2020 is designed to be the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign. The initiative integrates existing citizen science projects and builds capacity for new ones, all to grow citizen science worldwide.

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