Monitoring and conservation of breeding seabirds in West Africa

Many seabirds breed on low lying sandbanks and beaches, concentrated in colonies. The colonies are often located on isolated islands or peninsulas where they are out of reach of ground predators. Due to rising sea levels, these breeding areas are often subject to erosion and flooding which can cause the (partial) destruction of breeding colonies and leads to loss of breeding sites. Effective conservation of breeding seabirds requires accurate information about numbers and spatial distributions and their habitat.

Founders of Aeria have conducted various seabird conservation research projects, which were coordinated by BirdLife, in West Africa. Within the context of these projects we have trained local park staff to carry out seabird monitoring in Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. In 2015 we started using RPASs for monitoring seabird colonies and we have since then provided training and carried out a full census along the West African coast. With support of the Microsoft AI for Earth program and in collaboration with Machine Learning experts we have developed a model and analysis workflow based on convolutional neural networks to automate detection and species identification.

A sandy beach with a colony of breeding Royal terns

Aerial image of a colony of Royal terns with labeled individuals