The first stakeholder meeting for the iHabiMap project was held last week in St. Patrick’s Campus, Dublin City University. This was attended by representatives from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Parks and Wildlife Services, Irish Centre for High-End Computing, Trinity College Dublin and Teagasc.
Dr. John Connolly, project PI, welcomed all to the meeting and introduced the project team. iHabiMap is a technology-focused project with the primary aim to develop algorithms to automatically assess habitats and habitat condition in images acquired from UAV (drone).
iHabiMap focuses on three Annex 1 habitats located in uplands, grassland and coastal areas, with sites in the east and south-west of Ireland. The use of drones will complement ecologists and rangers working on the ground and allow a more extensive areas of land to be surveyed. Current survey methodologies are labour intensive and expensive and are not as spatially extensive.
During the first year of the project, two areas were surveyed: an upland area in Wicklow and several plots at Bull Island in Dublin Bay. This second year of the project, will involve the most extensive field campaign with 12 flights scheduled and at least 12 ecological field survey days. Work will also commence with the Earth Observation (EO) section of the project using the Copernicus Sentinel-2 data.
Jim Martin (BEC) provided an overview of the field campaigns and the methodology being used. Sites selected are all Annex 1 habitats previously surveyed by the team and provide a range of challenges for collection of drone images (e.g. tree shading effects, high winds, steep slopes). Irish Vegetation Classification (IVC) will be used for classifying species.
Jerome O’Connell (Orbas) presented an overview of the UAV remote sensing and AI for Habitat Mapping.
The iHabiMap project is a collaboration between DCU, Botanical, Environmental & Conservation (BEC) Consultants and Orbas and brings together experts in ecological assessment, earth observation and machine learning. iHabiMap is an EPA funded large-scale project, coordinated by Dr. John Connolly which runs from 2019 to 2023.