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DSI workshop helps Vanderbilt researcher do complex AI analysis of birdsongs

Posted by on Monday, April 10, 2023 in - Generative AI, Natural and Life Sciences, Newsletter, Vanderbilt University Data Science Institute and Vanderbilt University School of Engineering | Large Language Models, Workshop.

Machine learning models have revolutionized the way researchers approach data analysis, but building and training these models can be a daunting task for those who are new to coding. Fortunately, the emergence of AI assistants like ChatGPT is making it easier for novice coders to create their own ML models, even in complex fields like the study of birdsongs.

As part of the Vanderbilt University Data Science Institute’s Spring 2023 AI Revolutions symposium in March, Jesse Spencer-Smith, Chief Data Scientist and Interim Director of Vanderbilt University’s Data Science Institute, hosted a webinar entitled “Making ChatGPT Work for Your Research, Teaching, or Personal Projects with Prompt Engineering.” The webinar aimed to introduce participants to the power of ChatGPT, a language model based on the GPT-3.5 architecture, and how it can be used to create ML models for various purposes. One attendee, Kate Snyder, a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt’s Department of Biological Sciences, found the webinar to be inspiring and decided to try and create an ML model that she had been wanting to do for nearly three years.

Dr. Snyder’s research focuses on the study of birdsongs, which are essential for communication, mate attraction, and territory defense among birds. Understanding the complexity and diversity of birdsongs can provide insights into the evolution of bird species, their ecological niches, and their responses to environmental changes. However, analyzing and categorizing birdsongs can be a challenging task, especially when dealing with a large number of recordings of varying lengths and qualities.

Dr. Snyder had previously struggled to build an ML model that could classify recordings of birdsongs as “containing song” or “not containing song” due to her limited experience coding in Python. However, after attending the webinar and using ChatGPT, she was able to create the model in just four hours. According to Dr. Snyder, ChatGPT provided her with the level of detail she needed, as well as example code and troubleshooting assistance. She was able to overcome some of the challenges she faced, such as working with recordings of different lengths and qualities. Dr. Snyder believes that without ChatGPT’s assistance, the project would have taken her weeks to complete.

Dr. Snyder’s experience highlights the potential of AI assistants like ChatGPT to help novice coders overcome the hurdles they face when trying to create their own ML models. With ChatGPT, researchers can benefit from a tool that can help them work more efficiently, save time, and expand their skill set.

Using the ML model she created, Dr. Snyder was able to classify recordings of birdsongs with an accuracy rate of 93-98%. She plans to share her experience with ChatGPT with her colleagues by leading a mini-workshop on the tool. She expects that ML models can be trained to perform far more complicated tasks that will accelerate and expand the scope of birdsong research. The ability to classify birdsongs accurately can provide researchers with valuable information on the birds’ behavior, ecology, and physiology. For example, it can help identify differences in vocalizations between sexes, ages, or subspecies, which can shed light on the evolution of birdsongs and the role they play in the birds’ social interactions.

Dr. Snyder’s says attending the webinar, enabled her to push her research further faster than thought previously possible. The DSI regularly hosts webinars and workshops aimed at helping faculty, researchers, and students learn more about cutting-edge technologies such as Generative AI. These events provide valuable opportunities for attendees to enhance their skills and knowledge, and to network with peers and experts in their fields. All of our webinars will be posted on our YouTube page

If you’re interested in learning more about upcoming webinars and workshops hosted by the DSI, make sure to subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social media. By doing so, you’ll be among the first to find out about these exciting opportunities to revolutionize your research, teaching, or personal projects. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a novice just starting out in your field, the DSI’s events can help you stay on top of the latest trends and technologies and give you the tools you need to achieve your goals.


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