Finding the spots!

It’s Suzanne here, and I’ve got some exciting news to share! Last summer a lab out of the University of Seville, Spain released a program called SpotEgg that uses computer vision to find the spots on an egg.

This is a breakthrough for egg color and pattern research. In previous studies spots on eggs were scored by human eyes into broad groups. For example, an egg with no spots might be given a score of 1 while and egg covered in spots given a score of 5. Now, with the help of SpotEgg we are able to quantify exactly how many spots there are, how much area those spots cover, the color of those spots, and color of the background of the egg.

Over the last few months, the Sparrow Swap Team, with the help of one of the SpotEgg creators have been working out the kinks to be able to use SpotEgg to study the color and pattern of our house sparrow eggs. This is the first step to determine whether house sparrow eggs can be used as indicators of contaminants in the environment.

Today, We are excited to share with you some of the first photos from the eggs!

In order to use SpotEgg, we first have to take photos of every clutch using the same camera settings. This includes, a grayscale color card to make sure we can adjust the color, and a scale to be able to determine the size of the spots.

Here is what the photos look like before we run them through the program.

After we inspect the photos to make sure the are of the highest quality, we are ready to use SpotEgg to find the spots. While the computer does most of the work, it is still a tedious process to make sure every photo is correctly photographed, set up in the program, and that the computer accurately found the spots.
There are some few minor details to work out but here is one of our first photos where SpotEgg found the spots.

In addition, the program also creates a black and white version showing where the spots are.

Now let’s Take a closer look at Egg D.
The program has found the edges of the spot by comparing pixels side by side. If there is is a large difference between the two pixels, the computer defines that as an edge. By comparing all the pixels, the program is able to find the spots.

Just to give a you a little taste of the information we can get from SpotEgg, here are some numbers for Egg D.

Spots: 266

Area covered by spots: 44%

Length: 19.7 mm

Width: 16.6 mm

Volume: 698mm3

We are excited to be working on analyzing the photos from the 400 clutches we have in the Sparrow Swap collection over the next few months!

Once the photos are process through SpotEgg, we will be able to begin to look for patterns across the country in therms of color and spots!