Digitally detecting invasive species on ship hulls

University of Durham

Marie is exploring the automated identification and predicted translocation of invasive fouling organisms using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques. Fouling is the name given to microorganisms, algae and animals that accumulate on the outside of ships’ hulls. These can be transported from one port to another along with the ships. Organisms are termed invasive when they are transported from their natural geographical habitat and introduced and established into a new one.

Global shipping is therefore a major cause of the translocation of invasive fouling organisms. Their introduction is a major threat to the world’s oceans, as they cause biodiversity loss and damage to coastal industry and infrastructure.

Marie’s project will study fouling organisms and their translocation at a global level. The aim is to develop an inspection tool that uses machine learning to automate the detection of fouling invasive species from video footage. The project will also draw on global databases of fouling organism locations and environmental information to build a better understanding of how these organisms are transported and where they are likely to thrive.

Marie studied Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth. She has a passion for marine conservation, and because invasive species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and conservation globally, the issue is close to her heart. This project is part of Marie’s PhD with AkzoNobel and the University of Durham.

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“It’s fantastic that the Royal Commission funds these PhDs,” Marie says. “Their support has enabled this research to happen and opened so many doors for me and for the company.”