An evaluation of machine learning classifiers for next-generation, continuous-ethogram smart trackers


Our understanding of movement patterns and behaviours of wildlife has advanced greatly through the use of improved tracking technologies, including application of accelerometry (ACC) across a wide range of taxa. However, most ACC studies either use intermittent sampling that hinders continuity or continuous data logging relying on tracker retrieval for data downloading which is not applicable for long term study. To allow long-term, fine-scale behavioural research, we evaluated a range of machine learning methods for their suitability for continuous on-board classification of ACC data into behaviour categories prior to data transmission.

We tested six supervised machine learning methods, including linear discriminant analysis (LDA), decision tree (DT), support vector machine (SVM), artificial neural network (ANN), random forest (RF) and extreme gradient boosting (XGBoost) to classify behaviour using ACC data from three bird species (white stork Ciconia ciconia, griffon vulture Gyps fulvus and common crane Grus grus) and two mammals (dairy cow Bos taurus and roe deer Capreolus capreolus).

Using a range of quality criteria, SVM, ANN, RF and XGBoost performed well in determining behaviour from ACC data and their good performance appeared little affected when greatly reducing the number of input features for model training. On-board runtime and storage-requirement tests showed that notably ANN, RF and XGBoost would make suitable on-board classifiers.

Our identification of using feature reduction in combination with ANN, RF and XGBoost as suitable methods for on-board behavioural classification of continuous ACC data has considerable potential to benefit movement ecology and behavioural research, wildlife conservation and livestock husbandry.


Accelerometer, Behaviour classification, On-board processing, ANN, Random forest, XGBoost

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