A data science challenge for converting airborne remote sensing data into ecological information
- Subject Areas
- Ecology, Data Mining and Machine Learning, Data Science, Forestry, Spatial and Geographic Information Science
- airborne remote sensing, species classification, remote sensing, data alignment, national ecological observatory network, data science competition, crown segmentation, crown delineation
- © 2018 Marconi et al.
- This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
- Cite this article
- 2018. A data science challenge for converting airborne remote sensing data into ecological information. PeerJ Preprints 6:e26966v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.26966v1
Ecology has reached the point where data science competitions, in which multiple groups solve the same problem using the same data by different methods, will be productive for advancing quantitative methods for tasks such as species identification from remote sensing images. We ran a competition to help improve three tasks that are central to converting images into information on individual trees: 1) crown segmentation, for identifying the location and size of individual trees; 2) alignment, to match ground truthed trees with remote sensing; and 3) species classification of individual trees. Six teams (composed of 16 individual participants) submitted predictions for one or more tasks. The crown segmentation task proved to be the most challenging, with the highest-performing algorithm yielding only 34% overlap between remotely sensed crowns and the ground truthed trees. However, most algorithms performed better on larger trees. For the alignment task, an algorithm based on minimizing the difference, in terms of both position and tree size, between ground truthed and remotely sensed crowns yielded a perfect alignment. In hindsight, this task was over simplified by only including targeted trees instead of all possible remotely sensed crowns. Several algorithms performed well for species classification, with the highest-performing algorithm correctly classifying 92% of individuals and performing well on both common and rare species. Comparisons of results across algorithms provided a number of insights for improving the overall accuracy in extracting ecological information from remote sensing. Our experience suggests that this kind of competition can benefit methods development in ecology and biology more broadly.
This is a submission to PeerJ for review.