Uncovering Ecological Patterns with Convolutional Neural Networks

Philip G. Brodrick, Andrew B. Davies, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Using remotely sensed imagery to identify biophysical components across landscapes is an important avenue of investigation for ecologists studying ecosystem dynamics. With high-resolution remotely sensed imagery, algorithmic utilization of image context is crucial for accurate identification of biophysical components at large scales. In recent years, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have become ubiquitous in image processing, and are rapidly becoming more common in ecology. Because the quantity of high-resolution remotely sensed imagery continues to rise, CNNs are increasingly essential tools for large-scale ecosystem analysis. We discuss here the conceptual advantages of CNNs, demonstrate how they can be used by ecologists through distinct examples of their application, and provide a walkthrough of how to use them for ecological applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-745
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • convolutional neural network
  • deep learning
  • image segmentation
  • machine learning
  • object detection
  • remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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