Accelerating Species Discovery

UM computer scientist Yixin Chen and Tulane University evolutionary biologist Henry Bart, Jr. were recently awarded a three-year, $570,000 grant (UM portion $285,000) by the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled "Machine Learning in Taxonomic Research".

This work, funded by NSF's Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI) program, will explore and develop new machine learning methods for species identification and new species discovery using both 2D and 3D images. The project should transform the way species classification is performed, providing the basis for automating a process that currently takes many years to complete, hence fundamentally increasing the pace of taxonomic research.

It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the world's species have been described, yet species are being lost daily due to human destruction of natural habitats. Considering the fast pace of habitat destruction, experts fear that many species will go extinct before they can be discovered and formally described. The job of describing the earth's remaining species is exacerbated by the shrinking number of practicing taxonomists and the very slow pace of traditional taxonomic research. This project seeks to remedy the situation by developing new machine learning technologies to increase the productivity of taxonomic researchers.

PhD student James Church will assist Dr. Chen with his portion of the research at Ole Miss.

Congratulations to Dr. Chen, Dr. Bart, and their students!