Researchers photograph dolphins in their natural surroundings and compare new dorsal fin photographs against a catalogue of previously identified dolphins, explains Kelly Debure, professor of computer science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Debure, along with Eckerd students, developed DARWIN, or Digital Analysis and Recognition of Whale Images on a Network, a computer program that simplifies photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins by applying computer vision and signal processing techniques to automate much of the tedious manual photo-id process. It effectively performs registration of image data to compensate for the fact that the photographs are taken from different angles and distances and compares digital images of new dorsal fins with a database of previously identified fins. The system utilizes a variety of image processing and computer vision algorithms to perform the matching process that identifies those previously cataloged fins which most closely resemble the unknown fin.
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