Machine learning is becoming more and more advanced every year thanks to more refined algorithms and better sensor technology, machine learning is already seeing a lot of use in areas where large amounts of data need to be processed. Just recently scientists have made use of an unsupervised algorithm in a research that has been monitoring the underwater chatter of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

This project involved collecting data through autonomous sensors that were setup all across the Gulf, after two years they had collected about 52 million echolocation click noises made by dolphins in the region. Now this is the part where artificial intelligence comes in and makes things a whole lot easier for scientists instead of having a team of people go through these 52 million sound samples and categorize them based on certain factors, scientists made use of an algorithm that did the sorting for them.

What makes this algorithm intelligent is the fact that the scientists did not “teach” it to identify already known patterns the algorithm went through all the data and learnt how and what to identify as it did its job. Being unsupervised, the algorithm did a fine job at identifying original patterns and click types that allowed researchers to identify the various dolphin species in the wild. The algorithm that was used to do the categorizing is quite similar to what social media websites and music apps use to make suggestions and recommendation to users.

Researchers believe that carrying out studies related to wildlife in this manner will allow them to gather crucial data about even the most reclusive species without causing too much disturbance in their lives. Thanks to innovations in sensor technology and a constant rise in computing capability, researchers are confident that they will be able to make use of similar data collection and analysis techniques in the future to make ground breaking discoveries about dolphin activity.

Another interesting application of such a method can be to monitor the impact of climate change and oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico’s dolphin population allowing researchers to devise ways to safeguard the wildlife of the Gulf and ensure that dolphins in that area can thrive.