Microscopic marine organisms identified by new AI system!

Microscopic marine organisms identified by new AI system!

Researchers, including one from India have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) programme that can automatically provide species-level identification of microscopic marine organisms.To understand world’s oceans of both now and in our prehistoric past specifically, the AI programme has proven capable of identifying six species of foraminifera, or foram’s organisms that have been prevalent in Earth's oceans for over 100 million years.Forams are protists, neither plant nor animal. They leave behind their tiny shells when they die, most less than a millimeter wide. These shells give scientists insights into the characteristics of the oceans as they existed when the forams were alive.Evaluating those foram shells and fossils is both tedious and time consuming."At this point, the AI correctly identifies the forams about 80 per cent of the time, which is better than most trained humans. They expect the system to improve over time, because machine learning means the programme will get more accurate and more consistent with every iteration.They also plan to expand the AI's purview, so that it can identify at least 35 species of forams, rather than the current six. Currently the system works by placing a foram under a microscope capable of taking photographs. An LED ring shines light onto the foram from 16 directions one at a time while taking an image of the foram with each change in light.To provide as much geometric information as possible about the foram's shape these 16 images are combined. The AI then uses this information to identify the foram's species.It takes only seconds to scan and identify, and is already as fast as or faster than the fastest human experts.The successful first step toward building a robotic platform that will be able to identify, pick and sort forams automatically is demonstrated by this work.To build the fully-functional robotic system,the researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).Forams are ubiquitous in our oceans, and the chemistry of their shells records the physical and chemical characteristics of the waters that they grew in. For the past properties like temperature, salinity, acidity and nutrient concentrations these tiny organisms bear witness. In turn these properties can be used to reconstruct ocean circulation and heat transport during past climate events.

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