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Oregon State University Seeks Computer Algorithms To Catalog Plankton Data

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Oregon State University needs help cataloging tens of millions of plankton photos. The university is offering 175 thousand dollars for computer algorithms that will sort the photos.

The National Data Science bowl was announced on Monday. The competition was initiated to seek the classification of plankton data gathered from a Florida expedition last summer.

Jessica Luo, a PhD student based at the Hatfield Marine Science center in Newport says the plankton photos are used to study the predator and prey relationships between larval fish.

Luo: “99.99 percent of these larvae do not survive to recruit to the fishery. We’re interested in the factors that regulate this percentage. Just a small increase or decrease in that percentage of survival can dramatically change the amount of fish that are in the fisheries.”

Luo says the competition will help with research because it would take one person a year to sort through the data on hundreds of plankton species. She says to date it’s the largest prize pool for a computer science competition.