Conservation

2021
Lily Xu, Andrew Perrault, Fei Fang, Haipeng Chen, and Milind Tambe. 7/27/2021. “Robust Reinforcement Learning Under Minimax Regret for Green Security.” Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence. xu_uai21_robust_rl.pdf
Lily Xu, Elizabeth Bondi, Fei Fang, Andrew Perrault, Kai Wang, and Milind Tambe. 2/2021. “Dual-Mandate Patrols: Multi-Armed Bandits for Green Security.” In Thirty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-21).Abstract
Conservation efforts in green security domains to protect wildlife and forests are constrained by the limited availability of defenders (i.e., patrollers), who must patrol vast areas to protect from attackers (e.g., poachers or illegal loggers). Defenders must choose how much time to spend in each region of the protected area, balancing exploration of infrequently visited regions and exploitation of known hotspots. We formulate the problem as a stochastic multi-armed bandit, where each action represents a patrol strategy, enabling us to guarantee the rate of convergence of the patrolling policy. However, a naive bandit approach would compromise short-term performance for long-term optimality, resulting in animals poached and forests destroyed. To speed up performance, we leverage smoothness in the reward function and decomposability of actions. We show a synergy between Lipschitz-continuity and decomposition as each aids the convergence of the other. In doing so, we bridge the gap between combinatorial and Lipschitz bandits, presenting a no-regret approach that tightens existing guarantees while optimizing for short-term performance. We demonstrate that our algorithm, LIZARD, improves performance on real-world poaching data from Cambodia.
dual_mandate_patrols_aaai.pdf
Anika Puri and Elizabeth Bondi. 2021. “Space, Time, and Counts: Improved Human vs Animal Detection in Thermal Infrared Drone Videos for Prevention of Wildlife Poaching” Fragile Earth (FEED) Workshop at KDD 2021. feed_kdd_2021_final.pdf
2020
Rachel Guo, Lily Xu, Drew Cronin, Francis Okeke, Andrew Plumptre, and Milind Tambe. 12/12/2020. “Enhancing Poaching Predictions for Under-Resourced Wildlife Conservation Parks Using Remote Sensing Imagery”. Publisher's Version
Kai Wang, Bryan Wilder, Andrew Perrault, and Milind Tambe. 12/5/2020. “Automatically Learning Compact Quality-aware Surrogates for Optimization Problems.” In NeurIPS 2020 (spotlight). Vancouver, Canada.Abstract
Solving optimization problems with unknown parameters often requires learning a predictive model to predict the values of the unknown parameters and then solving the problem using these values. Recent work has shown that including the optimization problem as a layer in the model training pipeline results in predictions of the unobserved parameters that lead to higher decision quality. Unfortunately, this process comes at a large computational cost because the optimization problem must be solved and differentiated through in each training iteration; furthermore, it may also sometimes fail to improve solution quality due to  non-smoothness issues that arise when training through a complex optimization layer. To address these shortcomings, we learn a low-dimensional surrogate model of a large optimization problem by representing the feasible space in terms of meta-variables, each of which is a linear combination of the original variables. By training a low-dimensional surrogate model end-to-end, and jointly with the predictive model, we achieve: i) a large reduction in training and inference time; and ii) improved performance by focusing attention on the more important variables in the optimization and learning in a smoother space. Empirically, we demonstrate these improvements on a non-convex adversary modeling task, a submodular recommendation task and a convex portfolio optimization task.
automatically_learning_compact_quality_aware_surrogates_for_optimization_problems.pdf
Lily Xu, Andrew Perrault, Andrew Plumptre, Margaret Driciru, Fred Wanyama, Aggrey Rwetsiba, and Milind Tambe. 7/20/2020. “Game Theory on the Ground: The Effect of Increased Patrols on Deterring Poachers.” Harvard CRCS Workshop on AI for Social Good. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Applications of artificial intelligence for wildlife protection have focused on learning models of poacher behavior based on historical patterns. However, poachers' behaviors are described not only by their historical preferences, but also their reaction to ranger patrols. Past work applying machine learning and game theory to combat poaching have hypothesized that ranger patrols deter poachers, but have been unable to find evidence to identify how or even if deterrence occurs. Here for the first time, we demonstrate a measurable deterrence effect on real-world poaching data. We show that increased patrols in one region deter poaching in the next timestep, but poachers then move to neighboring regions. Our findings offer guidance on how adversaries should be modeled in realistic game-theoretic settings.
poaching_deterrence.pdf
Lily Xu*, Shahrzad Gholami *, Sara Mc Carthy, Bistra Dilkina, Andrew Plumptre, Milind Tambe, Rohit Singh, Mustapha Nsubuga, Joshua Mabonga, Margaret Driciru, Fred Wanyama, Aggrey Rwetsiba, Tom Okello, and Eric Enyel. 4/20/2020. “Stay Ahead of Poachers: Illegal Wildlife Poaching Prediction and Patrol Planning Under Uncertainty with Field Test Evaluations.” In IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE-20).Abstract
Illegal wildlife poaching threatens ecosystems and drives endangered species toward extinction. However, efforts for wildlife protection are constrained by the limited resources of law enforcement agencies. To help combat poaching, the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) is a machine learning pipeline that has been developed as a data-driven approach to identify areas at high risk of poaching throughout protected areas and compute optimal patrol routes. In this paper, we take an end-to-end approach to the data-to-deployment pipeline for anti-poaching. In doing so, we address challenges including extreme class imbalance (up to 1:200), bias, and uncertainty in wildlife poaching data to enhance PAWS, and we apply our methodology to three national parks with diverse characteristics. (i) We use Gaussian processes to quantify predictive uncertainty, which we exploit to improve robustness of our prescribed patrols and increase detection of snares by an average of 30%. We evaluate our approach on real-world historical poaching data from Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks in Uganda and, for the first time, Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia. (ii) We present the results of large-scale field tests conducted in Murchison Falls and Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary which confirm that the predictive power of PAWS extends promisingly to multiple parks. This paper is part of an effort to expand PAWS to 800 parks around the world through integration with SMART conservation software. 
icde_arxiv_version.pdf
Kai Wang. 2020. “Balance Between Scalability and Optimality in Network Security Games.” In Doctoral Consortium at International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems (AAMAS).Abstract
Network security games (NSGs) are widely used in security related domain to model the interaction between the attacker and the defender. However, due to the complex graph structure of the entire network, finding a Nash equilibrium even when the attacker is fully rational is not well-studied yet. There is no efficient algorithms known with valid guarantees. We identify two major issues of NSGs: i) non-linearity ii) correlation between edges. NSGs with non-linear objective function are usually hard to optimize, while correlated edges might create exponentially many strategies and impact the scalability. In this paper, we analyze the distortion of linear and non-linear formulations of NSGs with fully rational attacker. We provide theoretical bounds on these different formulations, which can quantify the approximation ratio between linear and non-linear assumption. This result can help us understand how much loss will the linearization incur in exchange for the scalability.
2020_10_teamcore_gcn_interdiction_bound.pdf
Elizabeth Bondi, Raghav Jain, Palash Aggrawal, Saket Anand, Robert Hannaford, Ashish Kapoor, Jim Piavis, Shital Shah, Lucas Joppa, Bistra Dilkina, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “BIRDSAI: A Dataset for Detection and Tracking in Aerial Thermal Infrared Videos.” In WACV. 2020_07_teamcore_wacv_birdsai.pdf
Andrew Perrault, Bryan Wilder, Eric Ewing, Aditya Mate, Bistra Dilkina, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “End-to-End Game-Focused Learning of Adversary Behavior in Security Games.” AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. New York. 1903.00958.pdf
Ayan Mukhopadhyay, Kai Wang, Andrew Perrault, Mykel Kochenderfer, Milind Tambe, and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. 2020. “Robust Spatial-Temporal Incident Prediction.” Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI). Toronto. uai_1.pdf
Kai Wang, Andrew Perrault, Aditya Mate, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “Scalable Game-Focused Learning of Adversary Models: Data-to-Decisions in Network Security Games.” In International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems (AAMAS).Abstract
Previous approaches to adversary modeling in network security games (NSGs) have been caught in the paradigm of first building a full adversary model, either from expert input or historical attack data, and then solving the game. Motivated by the need to disrupt the multibillion dollar illegal smuggling networks, such as wildlife and drug trafficking, this paper introduces a fundamental shift in learning adversary behavior in NSGs by focusing on the accuracy of the model using the downstream game that will be solved. Further, the paper addresses technical challenges in building such a game-focused learning model by i) applying graph convolutional networks to NSGs to achieve tractability and differentiability and ii) using randomized block updates of the coefficients of the defender's optimization in order to scale the approach to large networks. We show that our game-focused approach yields scalability and higher defender expected utility than models trained for accuracy only.
2020_09_teamcore_gcn_interdiction.pdf
Elizabeth Bondi, Hoon Oh, Haifeng Xu, Fei Fang, Bistra Dilkina, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “To Signal or Not To Signal: Exploiting Uncertain Real-Time Information in Signaling Games for Security and Sustainability.” In AAAI conference on Artificial Intelligence. 2020_02_teamcore_aaai_signaluncertainty.pdf
2018
Elizabeth Bondi, Debadeepta Dey, Ashish Kapoor, Jim Piavis, Shital Shah, Fei Fang, Bistra Dilkina, Robert Hannaford, Arvind Iyer, Lucas Joppa, and Milind Tambe. 6/20/2018. “AirSim-W: A Simulation Environment for Wildlife Conservation with UAVs.” In In COMPASS ’18: ACM SIGCAS Conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies (COMPASS), June 20–22, 2018, . Menlo Park and San Jose, CA, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA.Abstract
Increases in poaching levels have led to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to count animals, locate animals in parks, and even find poachers. Finding poachers is often done at night through the use of long wave thermal infrared cameras mounted on these UAVs. Unfortunately, monitoring the live video stream from the conservation UAVs all night is an arduous task. In order to assist in this monitoring task, new techniques in computer vision have been developed. This work is based on a dataset which took approximately six months to label. However, further improvement in detection and future testing of autonomous flight require not only more labeled training data, but also an environment where algorithms can be safely tested. In order to meet both goals efficiently, we present AirSim-W, a simulation environment that has been designed specifically for the domain of wildlife conservation. This includes (i) creation of an African savanna environment in Unreal Engine, (ii) integration of a new thermal infrared model based on radiometry, (iii) API code expansions to follow objects of interest or fly in zig-zag patterns to generate simulated training data, and (iv) demonstrated detection improvement using simulated data generated by AirSim-W. With these additional simulation features, AirSim-W will be directly useful for wildlife conservation research.
2018_15_teamcore_bondi_camera_ready_airsim_w.pdf
Shahrzad Gholami, Sara Mc Carthy, Bistra Dilkina, Andrew Plumptre, Milind Tambe, Margaret Driciru, Fred Wanyama, and Aggrey Rwetsiba. 2018. “Adversary models account for imperfect crime data: Forecasting and planning against real-world poachers (Corrected Version).” In International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent Systems (AAMAS 2018).Abstract
Poachers are engaged in extinction level wholesale slaughter, so it is critical to harness historical data for predicting poachers’ behavior. However, in these domains, data collected about adversarial actions are remarkably imperfect, where reported negative instances of crime may be mislabeled or uncertain. Unfortunately, past attempts to develop predictive and prescriptive models to address this problem suffer from shortcomings from a modeling perspective as well as in the implementability of their techniques. Most notably these models i) neglect the uncertainty in crime data, leading to inaccurate and biased predictions of adversary behavior, ii) use coarse-grained crime analysis and iii) do not provide a convincing evaluation as they only look at a single protected area. Additionally, they iv) proposed time-consuming techniques which cannot be directly integrated into low resource outposts. In this innovative application paper, we (I) introduce iWare-E a novel imperfect-observation aWare Ensemble (iWare-E) technique, which is designed to handle the uncertainty in crime information efficiently. This approach leads to superior accuracy and efficiency for adversary behavior prediction compared to the previous stateof-the-art. We also demonstrate the country-wide efficiency of the models and are the first to (II) evaluate our adversary behavioral model across different protected areas in Uganda, i.e., Murchison Fall and Queen Elizabeth National Park, (totaling about 7500 km2) as well as (III) on fine-grained temporal resolutions. Lastly, (IV) we provide a scalable planning algorithm to design fine-grained patrol routes for the rangers, which achieves up to 150% improvement in number of predicted attacks detected.
2018_28_teamcore_sgholami_aamas18.pdf
Haifeng Xu, Shaddin Dughmi, Milind Tambe, and Venil Loyd Noronha. 2018. “Mitigating the Curse of Correlation in Security Games by Entropy Maximization (Extended Abstract).” In International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS-18).Abstract
In Stackelberg security games, a defender seeks to randomly allocate limited security resources to protect critical targets from an attack. In this paper, we study a fundamental, yet underexplored, phenomenon in security games, which we term the Curse of Correlation (CoC). Specifically, we observe that there are inevitable correlations among the protection status of different targets. Such correlation is a crucial concern, especially in spatio-temporal domains like conservation area patrolling, where attackers can surveil patrollers at certain areas and then infer their patrolling routes using such correlations. To mitigate this issue, we propose to design entropy-maximizing defending strategies for spatio-temporal security games, which frequently suffer from CoC. We prove that the problem is #P-hard in general. However, it admits efficient algorithms in well-motivated special settings.
2018_18_teamcore_main.pdf
Elizabeth Bondi, Fei Fang, Mark Hamilton, Debarun Kar, Donnabell Dmello, Jongmoo Choi, Robert Hannaford, Arvind Iyer, Lucas Jopp, Milind Tambe, and Ram Nevatia. 2018. “SPOT Poachers in Action: Augmenting Conservation Drones with Automatic Detection in Near Real Time.” Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Conference on Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence (IAAI-18).Abstract
The unrelenting threat of poaching has led to increased development of new technologies to combat it. One such example is the use of long wave thermal infrared cameras mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to spot poachers at night and report them to park rangers before they are able to harm animals. However, monitoring the live video stream from these conservation UAVs all night is an arduous task. Therefore, we build SPOT (Systematic POacher deTector), a novel application that augments conservation drones with the ability to automatically detect poachers and animals in near real time. SPOT illustrates the feasibility of building upon state-of-the-art AI techniques, such as Faster RCNN, to address the challenges of automatically detecting animals and poachers in infrared images. This paper reports (i) the design and architecture of SPOT, (ii) a series of efforts towards more robust and faster processing to make SPOT usable in the field and provide detections in near real time, and (iii) evaluation of SPOT based on both historical videos and a real-world test run by the end users in the field. The promising results from the test in the field have led to a plan for larger-scale deployment in a national park in Botswana. While SPOT is developed for conservation drones, its design and novel techniques have wider application for automated detection from UAV videos.
2017
Debarun Kar, Benjamin Ford, Shahrzad Gholami, Fei Fang, Andrew Plumptre, Milind Tambe, Margaret Driciru, Fred Wanyama, and Aggrey Rwetsiba. 2017. “Cloudy with a Chance of Poaching: Adversary Behavior Modeling and Forecasting with Real-World Poaching Data.” In International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS).Abstract
Wildlife conservation organizations task rangers to deter and capture wildlife poachers. Since rangers are responsible for patrolling vast areas, adversary behavior modeling can help more effectively direct future patrols. In this innovative application track paper, we present an adversary behavior modeling system, INTERCEPT (INTERpretable Classification Ensemble to Protect Threatened species), and provide the most extensive evaluation in the AI literature of one of the largest poaching datasets from Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) in Uganda, comparing INTERCEPT with its competitors; we also present results from a month-long test of INTERCEPT in the field. We present three major contributions. First, we present a paradigm shift in modeling and forecasting wildlife poacher behavior. Some of the latest work in the AI literature (and in Conservation) has relied on models similar to the Quantal Response model from Behavioral Game Theory for poacher behavior prediction. In contrast, INTERCEPT presents a behavior model based on an ensemble of decision trees (i) that more effectively predicts poacher attacks and (ii) that is more effectively interpretable and verifiable. We augment this model to account for spatial correlations and construct an ensemble of the best models, significantly improving performance. Second, we conduct an extensive evaluation on the QENP dataset, comparing 41 models in prediction performance over two years. Third, we present the results of deploying INTERCEPT for a one-month field test in QENP - a first for adversary behavior modeling applications in this domain. This field test has led to finding a poached elephant and more than a dozen snares (including a roll of elephant snares) before they were deployed, potentially saving the lives of multiple animals - including endangered elephants.
2017_5_teamcore_aamas2017_intercept.pdf
Nitin Kamra, Fei Fang, Debarun Kar, Yan Liu, and Milind Tambe. 2017. “Handling Continuous Space Security Games with Neural Networks.” In In IWAISe-17: 1st International Workshop on A.I. in Security held at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence.Abstract
Despite significant research in Security Games, limited efforts have been made to handle game domains with continuous space. Addressing such limitations, in this paper we propose: (i) a continuous space security game model that considers infinitesize action spaces for players; (ii) OptGradFP, a novel and general algorithm that searches for the optimal defender strategy in a parametrized search space; (iii) OptGradFP-NN, a convolutional neural network based implementation of OptGradFP for continuous space security games; (iv) experiments and analysis with OptGradFP-NN. This is the first time that neural networks have been used for security games, and it shows the promise of applying deep learning to complex security games which previous approaches fail to handle.
2017_22_teamcore_ijcai_iwaise_sub2_final.pdf
Fei Fang, Thanh H. Nguyen, Rob Pickles, Wai Y. Lam, Gopalasamy R. Clements, Bo An, Amandeep Singh, Brian C. Schwedock, Milind Tambe, and Andrew Lemieux. 2017. “PAWS: A Deployed Game-Theoretic Application to Combat Poaching.” AI Magazine 38(1):23-36.Abstract
Poaching is considered a major driver for the population drop of key species such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos, which can be detrimental to whole ecosystems. While conducting foot patrols is the most commonly used approach in many countries to prevent poaching, such patrols often do not make the best use of the limited patrolling resources. This paper presents PAWS, a game-theoretic application deployed in Southeast Asia for optimizing foot patrols to combat poaching. In this paper, we report on the significant evolution of PAWS from a proposed decision aid introduced in 2014 to a regularly deployed application. We outline key technical advances that lead to PAWS’s regular deployment: (i) incorporating complex topographic features, e.g., ridgelines, in generating patrol routes; (ii) handling uncertainties in species distribution (game theoretic payoffs); (iii) ensuring scalability for patrolling large-scale conservation areas with fine-grained guidance; and (iv) handling complex patrol scheduling constraints.
2017_1_teamcore_aim_paws_0929.pdf

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