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Graham Patterson experience | 2024

“During the spring of 2024, I had the incredible opportunity to complete my master’s in marine science internship with Mar Ilimitado’s Ocean Lab in Sagres, Portugal. The focus of my internship was on developing an AI-driven platform with the hopes of revolutionizing cetacean photo identification, enhancing both the efficiency and accuracy of identifying individual whales and dolphins.

Identifying and keeping detailed records of individual whales and dolphins is crucial for tracking their movements, monitoring populations, studying behaviors, assessing health, informing conservation efforts, and conducting long-term research. However, the process of matching cetacean images to existing catalogs and maintaining these records for multiple species is very time-intensive. Mar Ilimitado’s extensive database, with over 20 years of detailed photo ID data, proved perfect for training an AI. By leveraging AI technologies such as Google Cloud Vision AI, Amazon Rekognition, and Microsoft Azure AI, we sought to create an easily scalable system based on generative AI models for cetacean research.

My responsibilities included:

  • Evaluating various AI platforms for their potential in cetacean photo ID
  • Interviewing, onboarding, and collaborating with four AI and computer science interns to train and test photo ID platforms on various platforms
  • Continuous testing and optimizing models to improve accuracy and efficiency in cetacean identification
  • Unrelated, but based on my own interest, creating protocols for eDNA whale blow collection

One of the most rewarding aspects of my internship was the opportunity to bridge the gap between marine biology and cutting-edge technology. I gained hands-on experience in both fieldwork and in the application of AI to marine science.

This internship not only enhanced my technical skills but also reinforced my understanding of the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in scientific research. The potential of AI to transform cetacean studies is immense, and I’m excited that this project, after showing initial promise, will continue.”

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