NOAA Looks for Help to Automate Beluga Whale Photo Identification

While many agencies are looking to modernize their legacy systems or digital government services, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is undertaking a more unique modernization project – automating the identification of beluga whales.

NOAA is currently looking for a complete end-to-end platform to automate the identification of Alaska’s Cook Inlet beluga whales from overhead photographs.

According to a Sept. 4 notice of intent, NOAA’s Acquisition and Grants Office, Western Acquisition Division-Boulder, intends to negotiate a sole source contract with Wild Me. According to NOAA, Wild Me developed Wildbook, “the only reusable wildlife data management software platform needed to achieve success in this project.” The company is also already an active partner with NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) as part of a complementary project for Flukebook. That project supports automated matching of identification photographs of other cetacean species (e.g., humpback whales, right whales). Additionally, Wild Me is working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in a complementary project for Flukebook that supports surveys for multiple cetacean species in BOEM managed areas.

NOAA justified the sole source nature of the notice of intent, saying “Wild Me is a uniquely experienced, focused and specialized vendor for this task.” Additionally, the notice said that NOAA “was not able to identify any other suitable vendor that had experience providing such a database platform for automated matching of whale photographs.”

While NOAA said the notice “is not a request for competitive proposals and no solicitation package is available,” it did note that “firms that believe they can fully meet the Government’s requirements may submit substantiating documentation in writing” by Sept. 19. The notice said that any submissions would be evaluated “solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis.”

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.

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