Only a small number of isolated rubber vine still exist in the infestation area and we need to find every last one of them. We are only a very small group tackling the mammoth task of eradicating rubber vine from 265 square kilometres of the Fitzroy River Valley but with your help we become a large group and will achieve success.
During the dry season, our ground team, Team Rubber Vine; Kelvin and Dougie (indigenous locals) and John (Teams Leader and Project Manager), search at 10-metre (33 feet) spacing, walking 25 kilometres a day can only cover 40 square kilometres or a sixth of the total infestation area in any one year. Rubber vine grows rapidly and while we are clearing one area, rubber vine may go unchecked and flourish in another, hence the second major part of our arsenal against the vine, Astro, the annual aerial search.
At the end of the wet season, our aerial team, Team Astro; Mick (Department of Food and Agriculture WA), Butch and Josh (our pilots) and John, complete a helicopter search of the entire infestation area, looking for mature flowering vines. Our detection rate is high but we don’t spot every rubber vine. Because we are in the final phase of the eradication program we need to find every breeding vine before they seed. This is where you come in joining our virtual chopper observer team, Team Aquila, to search for vines in aerial images captured during our annual helicopter search.
During the helicopter search we capture millions of images. These images are of such high resolution that white flowers of rubber vine are easily detected against green foliage. Computer software reduces those millions of images to only tens of thousands but as good as computer software is, nothing beats the human brain but we are close. We now use Artificial Intelligence in our software. Specifically, we have Machine Learning as the basis of our detection software, which now finds 99.9 percent of the flowering vines out there.
Many hands make light work, or in our case many eyes, so please join Team Aquila to help us search the images and find the last of the rubber vine. The Aquila Project is Citizen Science at its best.
What does being part of Team Aquila offer you? The satisfaction of knowing every time you and like-minded friends contribute to the search, you are a vital part of the largest most successful weed eradication program in Australia, if not the World, and you are helping save this unique part of it.