Pre-trained models are not enough: active and lifelong learning is important for long-term visual monitoring of mammals in biodiversity research

Individual identification and attribute prediction with image features from deep neural networks and decoupled decision models applied to elephants and great apes

Mammalian Biology

Authors: Paul Bodesheim and Jan Blunk and Matthias Körschens and Clemens-Alexander Brust and Christoph Käding and Joachim Denzler

Abstract: Animal re-identification based on image data, either recorded manually by photographers or automatically with camera traps, is an important task for ecological studies about biodiversity and conservation that can be highly automatized with algorithms from computer vision and machine learning. However, fixed identification models only trained with standard datasets before their application will quickly reach their limits, especially for long-term monitoring with changing environmental conditions, varying visual appearances of individuals over time that differ a lot from those in the training data, and new occurring individuals that have not been observed before. Hence, we believe that active learning with human-in-the-loop and continuous lifelong learning is important to tackle these challenges and to obtain high-performance recognition systems when dealing with huge amounts of additional data that become available during the application. Our general approach with image features from deep neural networks and decoupled decision models can be applied to many different mammalian species and is perfectly suited for continuous improvements of the recognition systems via lifelong learning. In our identification experiments, we consider four different taxa, namely two elephant species: African forest elephants and Asian elephants, as well as two species of great apes: gorillas and chimpanzees. Going beyond classical re-identification, our decoupled approach can also be used for predicting attributes of individuals such as gender or age using classification or regression methods. Although applicable for small datasets of individuals as well, we argue that even better recognition performance will be achieved by improving decision models gradually via lifelong learning to exploit huge datasets and continuous recordings from long-term applications. We highlight that algorithms for deploying lifelong learning in real observational studies exist and are ready for use. Hence, lifelong learning might become a valuable concept that supports practitioners when analyzing large-scale image data during long-term monitoring of mammals.