Capstone Perspectives: Monitoring Nature with AI Automatic Change Detection, 2022 Capstone Faculty Award Winner!

Join us in congratulating ECE undergraduates Ege Berk, John, Yan, Kerem, and Lemuel for their accomplishment in receiving one of this year’s Faculty Awards at the 2022 Capstone Design and Innovation Day! We were able to connect with the team to ask about their work together on the capstone team, their excitement about their chosen project, and some of the challenges they were able to overcome together!

Which community partner did you work with?

We had the opportunity to work with Korotu Technology; an innovative sustainable finance technology startup based in Toronto founded by Sean and Agata Rudd. 

What would be the “elevator pitch” for your project (i.e., what is your innovation, what problem does it solve, etc.)?

The impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss are becoming more and more severe after billions of trees are lost every year due to deforestation. Immediate action is required to prevent further prohibited deforestation, and we believe that our easy-to-use nature monitoring mobile application, which tracks and visualizes deforestation changes in any area of interest, provides access to the general public to engage and be accountable in protecting nature while calling people to action in our attempt to mitigate deforestation.

What inspired you to pursue this particular project?

The project combines our interest in nature and sustainability alongside our passion in using engineering principles and technical skillset to tackle real-world problems. As climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss are some of the most critical problems we are facing today, we unite as a team and collaborate with Korotu technology to develop a mobile application that will call people to action against these serious issues. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced while working on your project?

Designing the system-level architecture and training a decent machine learning model were the most challenging parts.

What excited you the most about your project?

When we were able to develop a classification algorithm and display the classified images on our front-end in an interactive way, we knew that the app would be useful for the general public. The deforestation changes between different years were evident and easy to see for the end-user, and the change metrics were simple and easy to understand. We were really excited as a team to see the app developing closer to an end-product and because we realize that the app has a lot of potential for real-life use cases, we believe that our mobile application can be beneficial to call people to action against climate change.

What is the most interesting/surprising thing you learned while working on your project?

We found a devastating amount of tree loss in Collingwood, Ontario from 2013 to 2021 after classifying the corresponding satellite images. This change was not as easy to notice by looking at the raw satellite images.

What does the future hold for your project?

Currently, our application supports only one type of nature change detection: deforestation. In the future, other natural changes such as glacier loss or erosion could also be integrated into our app, making it a one-stop application for nature change monitoring. 

The application will also be integrated into Korotu Technology’s existing products and will potentially be used to attract new investors and raise awareness about current nature issues.