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Understanding Prairie Flowers with Drones?

The prairies in Miami Whitewater Forest are an ever-changing tapestry of flowers that change throughout the year. These flowers provide resources for a wide variety of insects that also change throughout the season. Images obtained by drones are now being used to study the patterns and timing of flowering.  Direct high-resolution images can now be easily stitched together to form a single high resolution 3-D image of a whole prairie.  Drones can record most flowers in a large prairie in a matter of minutes, then artificial intelligence (machine learning) can be used to train software to automatically identify the flowers in the image.  This allows us to understand the spatial and temporal patterns of flowering of dozens of species in prairies with different ages and management  regimes.  We still need students and professors to walk the fields to identify hundreds of flowers, but drone and AI technology will allow us to cover so much more ground and make comparisons never before possible.  The next step is to employ similar methods to the pollinator and insect community that is using the flowers!


Right now, you can use artificial intelligence to identify plants, insects and animals you see by downloading the  iNAturalist App. It’s EASY to ask it to help you identify any organism, and  others will chime in to verify or correct your guesses.  It is an excellent tool to learn how to identify plants and animals!




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