Invasive species cause billions of dollars worth of damage to ecosystems every year. Conservation agencies like the Great Lakes Commission believe that preventing the online sale or purchase of aquatic invasive species is a critical step in limiting their destructive impact.
In October 2012 The Great Lakes Commission received a grant from the EPA to fund development of a customized software application that could provide data about online trafficking of both regulated and nonregulated invasive species.
RightBrain Networks developed a custom-built software application (the Internet Sales of Invasive Species Detection System or IS2DS) which employs both natural language processing and machine intelligence components to scrape, sort and collect thousands of web pages across the Internet. The application focuses on keywords including both the scientific and common names of regulated species across auction sites (Craig’s List, eBay) and search engines (Google, Bing) and can identify whether or not the page contains information about an actual sale or trade. The data collected provides a basis for community outreach, education and, if necessary, follow up action from law enforcement agencies.
To date, the software has collected thousands of pages of actual sales of invasive species.