Highlighted Papers

Artificial intelligence has been applied in wildfire science and management since the 1990s, with early applications including neural networks and expert systems. Since then the field has rapidly progressed congruently with the wide adoption of machine learning (ML) methods in the environmental sciences. Here, we present a scoping review of ML applications in wildfire science and management. Our overall objective is to improve awareness of ML methods among wildfire researchers and managers, as well as illustrate the diverse and challenging range of problems in wildfire science available to ML data scientists. To that end, we first present an overview of popular ML approaches used in wildfire science to date, and then review the use of ML in wildfire science as broadly categorized into six problem domains, including: 1) fuels characterization, fire detection, and mapping; 2) fire weather and climate change; 3) fire occurrence, susceptibility, and risk; 4) fire behavior prediction; 5) fire effects; and 6) fire management. Furthermore, we discuss the advantages and limitations of various ML approaches relating to data size, computational requirements, generalizability, and interpretability, as well as identify opportunities for future advances in the science and management of wildfires within a data science context. In total, we identfied 300 relevant publications up to the end of 2019, where the most frequently used ML methods across problem domains included random forests, MaxEnt, artificial neural networks, decision trees, support vector machines, and genetic algorithms. As such, there exists opportunities to apply more current ML methods — including deep learning and agent based learning — in the wildfire sciences, especially in instances involving very large multivariate datasets. We must recognize, however, that despite the ability of ML methods to learn on their own, expertise in wildfire science is necessary to ensure realistic modelling of fire processes across multiple scales, while the complexity of some ML methods, such as deep learning, requires a dedicated and sophisticated knowledge of their application. Finally, we stress that the wildfire research and management communities play an active role in providing relevant, high quality, and freely available wildfire data for use by practitioners of ML methods.
Ma, H. et al., 2020. Isolation Mondrian Forest for Batch and Online Anomaly Detection. IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC) 2020. Available at: arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.03692. Also available at:

We propose a new method, named isolation Mon- drian forest (iMondrian forest), for batch and online anomaly detection. The proposed method is a novel hybrid of isolation forest and Mondrian forest which are existing methods for batch anomaly detection and online random forest, respectively. iMondrian forest takes the idea of isolation, using the depth of a node in a tree, and implements it in the Mondrian forest structure. The result is a new data structure which can accept streaming data in an online manner while being used for anomaly detection. Our experiments show that iMondrian forest mostly performs better than isolation forest in batch settings and has better or comparable performance against other batch and online anomaly detection methods.

Sikaroudi, M. et al., Accepted. Offline versus Online Triplet Mining based on Extreme Distances of Histopathology Patches. In International Conference on Intelligent Systems and Computer Vision (ISCV 2020) . Fez-Morrocco (virtual): IEEE., p. 8. Available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.02200. Preprint
We analyze the effect of offline and online triplet mining for colorectal cancer (CRC) histopathology dataset containing 100,000 patches. We consider the extreme, i.e., farthest and nearest patches with respect to a given anchor, both in online and offline mining. While many works focus solely on how to select the triplets online (batch-wise), we also study the effect of extreme distances and neighbor patches before training in an offline fashion. We analyze the impacts of extreme cases for offline versus online mining, including easy positive, batch semi-hard, and batch hard triplet mining as well as the neighborhood component analysis loss, its proxy version, and distance weighted sampling. We also investigate online approaches based on extreme distance and comprehensively compare the performance of offline and online mining based on the data patterns and explain offline mining as a tractable generalization of the online mining with large mini-batch size. As well, we discuss the relations of different colorectal tissue types in terms of extreme distances. We found that offline mining can generate a better statistical representation of the population by working on the whole dataset.
Sikaroudi, M. et al., 2020. Supervision and Source Domain Impact on Representation Learning: A Histopathology Case Study. In International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC'20). 42nd Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC'20): IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Available at: https://embs.papercept.net/conferences/scripts/rtf/EMBC20_ContentListWeb_1.html#moat2-15_02. Conference Description

As many algorithms depend on a suitable representation of data, learning unique features is considered a crucial task. Although supervised techniques using deep neural networks have boosted the performance of representation learning, the need for a large set of labeled data limits the application of such methods. As an example, high-quality delineations of regions of interest in the field of pathology is a tedious and time-consuming task due to the large image dimensions. In this work, we explored the performance of a deep neural network and triplet loss in the area of representation learning. We investigated the notion of similarity and dissimilarity in pathology whole-slide images and compared different setups from unsupervised and semi-supervised to supervised learning in our experiments. Additionally, different approaches were tested, applying few-shot learning on two publicly available pathology image datasets. We achieved high accuracy and generalization when the learned representations were applied to two different pathology datasets.


Road maintenance during the Winter season is a safety critical and resource demanding operation. One of its key activities is determining road surface condition (RSC) in order to prioritize roads and allocate cleaning efforts such as plowing or salting. Two conventional approaches for determining RSC are: visual examination of roadside camera images by trained personnel and patrolling the roads to perform on-site inspections. However, with more than 500 cameras collecting images across Ontario, visual examination becomes a resource-intensive activity, difficult to scale especially during periods of snow storms. This paper presents the preliminary results of an ongoing study focused on improving the efficiency of road maintenance operations. We use multiple Deep Learning models to automatically determine RSC from roadside camera images and weather variables, extending previous research where similar methods have been used to deal with the problem. The dataset we use was collected during the 2017-2018 Winter season from 40 stations connected to the Ontario Road Weather Information System (RWIS), it includes 14.000 labelled images and 70.000 weather measurements. In particular, we train and evaluate the performance of seven state-of-the-art models from the Computer Vision literature, including the recent DenseNet, NASNet, and MobileNet. Also, by integrating observations from weather variables, the models are able to better ascertain RSC under poor visibility conditions.
Results of fire spread prediction from different ML algorithms
Machine learning algorithms have increased tremendously in power in recent years but have yet to be fully utilized in many ecology and sustainable resource management domains such as wildlife reserve design, forest fire management and invasive species spread. One thing these domains have in common is that they contain dynamics that can be characterized as a Spatially Spreading Process (SSP) which requires many parameters to be set precisely to model the dynamics, spread rates and directional biases of the elements which are spreading. We present related work in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for SSP sustainability domains including forest wildfire prediction. We then introduce a novel approach for learning in SSP domains using Reinforcement Learning (RL) where fire is the agent at any cell in the landscape and the set of actions the fire can take from a location at any point in time includes spreading North, South, East, West or not spreading. This approach inverts the usual RL setup since the dynamics of the corresponding Markov Decision Process (MDP) is a known function for immediate wildfire spread. Meanwhile, we learn an agent policy for a predictive model of the dynamics of a complex spatially-spreading process. Rewards are provided for correctly classifying which cells are on fire or not compared to satellite and other related data. We examine the behaviour of five RL algorithms on this problem: Value Iteration, Policy Iteration, Q-Learning, Monte Carlo Tree Search and Asynchronous Advantage Actor-Critic (A3C). We compare to a Gaussian process based supervised learning approach and discuss the relation of our approach to manually constructed, state-of-the-art methods from forest wildfire modelling. We also discuss the relation of our approach to manually constructed, state-of-the-art methods from forest wildfire modelling. We validate our approach with satellite image data of two massive wildfire events in Northern Alberta, Canada; the Fort McMurray fire of 2016 and the Richardson fire of 2011. The results show that we can learn predictive, agent-based policies as models of spatial dynamics using RL on readily available satellite images that other methods and have many additional advantages in terms of generalizability and interpretability.
Houtman, R.M. et al., 2013. Allowing a wildfire to burn: Estimating the effect on future fire suppression costs. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 22(7), pp.871–882.
Where a legacy of aggressive wildland fire suppression has left forests in need of fuel reduction, allowing wildland fire to burn may provide fuel treatment benefits, thereby reducing suppression costs from subsequent fires. The least-cost-plus-net-value-change model of wildland fire economics includes benefits of wildfire in a framework for evaluating suppression options. In this study, we estimated one component of that benefit – the expected present value of the reduction in suppression costs for subsequent fires arising from the fuel treatment effect of a current fire. To that end, we employed Monte Carlo methods to generate a set of scenarios for subsequent fire ignition and weather events, which are referred to as sample paths, for a study area in central Oregon. We simulated fire on the landscape over a 100-year time horizon using existing models of fire behaviour, vegetation and fuels development, and suppression effectiveness, and we estimated suppression costs using an existing suppression cost model. Our estimates suggest that the potential cost savings may be substantial. Further research is needed to estimate the full least-cost-plus-net-value-change model. This line of research will extend the set of tools available for developing wildfire management plans for forested landscapes.