Counting catfish with AI wins science fair Supreme Award

A scientific project exploring the use of artificial intelligence and traps to identify and photograph catfish underwater to monitor population numbers has taken out Te Arawa Lakes Trust’s Ngā Karu Atua Supreme Award at the inaugural Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair.

Alexander (Alex) Malcolm, from Mokoia Intermediate School, spent many weekends working on his project, one of 80 entries from tamariki and rangatahi from across the Te Arawa rohe.

Alex says he decided to look at alternative ways of monitoring catfish after spending more than five years being involved in Te Arawa Lakes Trust’s catfish programme.

“I wanted to come up with a project that would help the work we’re doing with catfish netting, get a better understanding of what’s happening in the lakes and the different types of fish that are there,” says Alex.

Alex won the Sustainability Category, as well as the Scion Ngā Huarahi ki Te Ao Award.

The results were announced at a prize giving held at Motion Entertainment Friday 1 July. The entries were judged by Tracey Burton (LINZ), Katerina Pihera-Ridge (SCION), Soweeta Fort D’arth (Bay of Plenty Regional Council) and Deniz Özkundakci (University of Waikato).

The Fair featured five categories – water quality, biosecurity, biodiversity, mātauranga Māori and sustainability, with the winners in each category being eligible for the Supreme Award.

A joint kaupapa between Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the mātauranga Māori science fair is believed to be the first of its kind, specifically targeting environmental issues through a te ao Māori lens.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust Operations Manager – Biosecurity and Jobs for Nature, William Anaru, says local tamariki and rangatahi are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about being kaitiaki for the environment and it has really shone through in their mahi.

“The projects are so impressive – and around 10 kura have visited the fair over the past two days. “This kaupapa gives tamariki and rangatahi a chance to kōrero about the state of te taiao, and the more they know about the environment and how to care for it, the better it will be for their tamariki, and future generations after then.”

Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā Science and Design Fair is open until 1pm Saturday 2nd July at Motion Entertainment in Rotorua for kura, whānau, friends and members of the public to come along and check out the projects.

The fair showcases range of topics from restoring native species, through to pest control and measuring and creating habitats to improve biodiversity.

Photo caption: Te Arawa Lakes Trust Ngā Karu Atua Supreme Award winner Alex Malcolm, with the Trust’s Biosecurity Co-ordinator, Mariana te Rangi.