Tag Archives: University of Montpellier

Be a citizen scientist: join the ‘Wild river battle’

I got this invitation from a professor at the University of Montpellier (Université de Montpellier, France) in a February 1, 2024 email (the project ‘Wild river battle’ is being run by scientists at ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich]) ,

Dear all,

I hope this message finds you well. I am reaching out to share an exciting opportunity for all of us to contribute to the safeguarding of wild rivers worldwide.

We are launching a Citizen Science project in collaboration with Citizen Science Zurich, utilizing AI and satellite imagery to assess and protect the natural state of rivers on a global scale. Whether you have a passion for river conservation or simply wish to contribute to a meaningful cause, we invite you to join us in this impactful game.

To access the game, please follow this link https://lab.citizenscience.ch/en/project/769

It only takes 3-5 minutes, and the rules are simple: click on the riverscape that you find the wildest (you can also use the buttons under the images).

Thank you very much for your time in advance, and I look forward to witnessing our collective efforts make a positive impact for the conservation of our precious rivers. And we are open to receive any feedback by mail (shzong@ethz.ch) and willing to provide more information for those who are interested (https://ele.ethz.ch/research/technology-modelling/citizen-river.html).

Best regards and have fun!

Nicolas Mouquet

Scientific director of the Centre for the Synthesis
and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB)
5 Rue de l’École de Médecine
34000, Montpellier

I went looking for more information as per Mouquet`s email (https://ele.ethz.ch/research/technology-modelling/citizen-river.html) and found this,

Finding wild rivers with AI

A citizen science project combining AI and satellite images to evaluate rivers’ wildness.

Wild rivers are an invaluable resource that play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and supporting biodiversity. Rivers of high ecological integrity provide habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species, and their free-​flowing waters provide a large number of services such as freshwater, supporting the needs of local communities. Protecting wild rivers is essential to ensure long-​term global health, and it is our responsibility to develop management schemes to preserve these precious habitats for future generations.  

Wild stretches, supporting the highest levels of biodiversity, are disappearing globally at an extremely fast rate. Deforestation, mining, pollution, booming hydropower dams and other human infrastructures are built or planned on large rivers. The increasing pressure of human activities has been causing a rapid decline of biodiversity and ecological function. We should act now to protect the rivers and be guided by the current state of rivers to identify unprotected areas that are worth being included in conservation plans. However, there is still no map of global wild river segments which could support such global conservation planning, nor a tool to monitor the wilderness of rivers over time under global changes.

How we find wild rivers, evaluate their wildness, and why we need your help

We will evaluate the level of wildness of river sections from satellite images. Remote sensing is the most efficient method for monitoring the landscape on a global and dynamic scale. Satellite images contain valuable information about the river’s course, width, depth, shape and surrounding landscape, which allow us to assess how wild they are visually.

You and other citizen scientists can help us score the wildest river sections from satellite images. Using the ranking from citizen scientists, we will run a ranking algorithm to give each image a wildness score depending on the many pairwise comparisons. These images with a wilderness score will act as a training dataset for a machine learning algorithm which will be trained to automatically score any large river segment, globally. With an accurate river wildness model, we will be able to quickly assess the wildness of the global river sections. Using such a tool, we can for instance find the river sections that are still worth protecting. This pristine river map will provide invaluable insights for conservation initiatives and enable targeted actions to safeguard and restore the remaining pristine rivers and monitor the trajectories of rivers around the world.

How to do it?

Rivers will first be segmented into river sections with the surrounding environment as a whole landscape bounding box. The river sections will be identified by citizen scientists and your interpretation to form a reference dataset. The game (you can click the corresponding language to access it with different language versions. English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese) is easy (thanks to Citizen Science Zurich); you just have to click on the riverscape you find more wild, or click the button under the rivers. For mobile users, please use the buttons.

Before you get started there will be this,

Your participation in the study is voluntary.

Statement of consent

By participating in the study, I confirm that I:

* have heard/read and understood the study information.
* had enough time to decide on my participation in the study.
* voluntarily participate in the study and agree to my personal data being used as described below.

Participants’ information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality. All data collected, including but not limited to demographic details, responses to survey questions, and any other pertinent information, will be securely stored and accessible only to authorized personnel involved in the research. Your personal identity will be kept strictly confidential, and any published results will be presented in aggregate form, ensuring that individual participants cannot be identified. Furthermore, your data will not be shared with any third parties and will only be used for the specific research purposes outlined in the introduction page prior to participating in the study.

I fund this description of the researchers and contributors (from https://lab.citizenscience.ch/en/project/769 or ‘Wild river battle’)

Who is behind

We are ecologists at ETH Zurich that are foucusing on biodiversity monitoring in the large river corridors. Learn more about us from our homepage. Chair of Ecosystems and Landscape Evolution

Who contributes

All the people that have interest in protecting wild rivers can participate this project, and of course non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and river management bureau like CNR (Compagnie Nationale du Rhône) also showed great interests in this project.

Should you be inspired to do more, Citizen Science Zurich lists a number of projects (ranging from the Hair SALON project to FELIDAE: Finding Elusive Links by Tracking Diet of Cats in Environment to more) on this page. It’s a mixed listing of those that are completed or looking for participants and/or looking for financial resources.

There is also a Citizen Science Portal (a Canadian federal government project) that was last updated January 15, 2024. Some of the projects are national in scope while others are provincial in scope.

Georges Canguilhem’s influence on life sciences philosophy and ‘it’s all about Kant’

This July 5, 2023 Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) press release by José Tadeu Arantes (also on EurekAlert but published on July 3, 2023) slow walks us through a listing of French intellectuals and some history (which I enjoyed) before making a revelation,

The constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. The definition dates from the 1940s, but even then the thinking behind it was hardly novel. Similar concepts can be found in antiquity, in Eastern as well as Western societies, but in Europe, the cradle of Western culture, the view that mental well-being was part of health enjoyed little prestige in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries owing to a reductionist understanding of disease as strictly somatic (relating only to the body). This outlook eventually began to be questioned. One of its leading critics in the twentieth century was French philosopher and physician Georges Canguilhem (1904-1995).

A disciple of Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), a colleague of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), Paul Nizan (1905-1940) and Raymond Aron (1905-1983), and a major influence on Michel Foucault (1926-1984), Canguilhem was one of the foremost French intellectuals of the postwar years. Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) and Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) were among the thinkers who took inspiration from his ideas.

Canguilhem began studying medicine in the mid-thirties and earned his medical doctorate in 1943, by which time he had already taught philosophy in high schools for many years (having qualified in 1927). Another significant tack in his life course occurred during World War Two. He had long been both a pacifist and an antifascist. Following the French surrender in 1940, he refused to continue teaching under the Vichy regime and joined the Resistance, fighting with the rural guerrillas of the Maquis. In this historically and politically complex period, he apparently set out to train as a physician in order to have practical experience as well as book learning and to work on the history of the life sciences. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille da la Résistance for organizing a field hospital while under attack in the Auvergne.

In an article published in the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Emiliano Sfara, who has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Montpellier and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil from 2018 to 2022, argues that Canguilhem’s concepts of “technique”, “technical activity” and “practice” derived from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) and influenced Canguilhem’s decision to study medicine.

“Earlier historiographical research showed how Kant influenced Canguilhem, especially the concept of ‘knowledge’ developed in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as the unification of heterogeneous data by an organizing intellect, and the idea of the ‘organism’ as a totality of interdependent and interacting parts, inspired by the Critique of Judgment. I tried to show in the article the importance, and roots in Kant, of a third cluster of ideas relating to the concept of ‘technique’ in Canguilhem’s work, beginning in mid-thirties,” said Sfara, currently a researcher at the National Institute of Science and Technology for Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies in Ecology and Evolution (INCT IN-TREE), hosted by the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).

“Section 43 of Kant’s Critique of Judgment makes a distinction between technical capacity and science as a theoretical faculty. Technique is the subject’s concrete practice operating in a certain context, a vital movement of construction or manufacturing of objects and tools that enable a person to live in their environment. This is not reducible to science. Analogously, Canguilhem postulates that science is posterior to technique. Practice comes first; theory arises later. This movement is evident in art. True, the artist starts out with a project. But the development of the artwork isn’t confined to the project, which is reconstructed as the process unfolds. This practical element of the subject’s interaction with the environment, which has its roots in Kant’s theories, was very important to the evolution of Canguilhem’s thought. It even influenced his decision to study medicine, as well as the conception of medicine he developed.”

Sfara explained that while Canguilhem espoused the values of the Parti Radical in his youth, in the mid-thirties he moved left, without becoming a pro-Soviet Stalinist. Later on, according to some scholars who knew him and are still active (such as the Moroccan philosopher and mathematician Hourya Benis Sinaceur), Canguilhem gave primacy to the egalitarian principles symbolized by the French Republic’s motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

His main contributions were to medicine and philosophy of science. His most important work, The Normal and the Pathological (1966), is basically an expansion of his 1943 doctoral thesis. “In his original thesis, Canguilhem broke with part of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French medical tradition and formulated ideas that are very much part of medicine today. [emphasis mine] Taking a purely analytical and quantitative approach, physicians like François Broussais (1772-1838) believed disease resulted from a surplus or lack of some organic substance, such as blood. Bloodletting was regularly used as a form of treatment. France imported 33 million leeches from southern Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century. Canguilhem saw the organism as a totality that interacted with its environment [emphasis mine] rather than a mere aggregation of parts whose functioning depended only on a ‘normal’ amount of the right organic substances,” Safra said.

In Canguilhem, the movement changes. Instead of transiting from the part to the whole, he moves from the whole to the part (as does Kant in the Critique of Judgment). He views the organism not as a machine but as an integral self-regulating totality. Life cannot be deduced from physical and chemical laws. One must start from the living being to understand life. Practice is the bridge that connects this totality to the environment. At the same time as it changes the environment, practice changes the organism and helps determine its physiological states.

“So Canguilhem implies that in order to find a state called normal, i.e. healthy, a given organism has to adapt its own operating rules to the outside world in the course of interacting concretely and practically with the environment. A human organism, for example, is in a ‘normal’ state when its pulse slows sharply after a period of long daily running. A case in point is the long-distance runner, who has to train every day,” Safra said.

“For Canguilhem, disease is due to inadaptation between the part, the organism and the environment, and often manifests itself as a feeling of malaise. Adaptive mechanisms in the organism can correct pathological dysfunctions.”

The article resulted from Sfara’s postdoctoral research supervised by Márcio Suzuki and supported by FAPESP.

The article “From technique to normativity: the influence of Kant on Georges Canguilhem’s philosophy of life” is at: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40656-023-00573-8.

This text was originally published by FAPESP Agency according to Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-ND. Read the original here.https://agencia.fapesp.br/republicacao_frame?url=https://agencia.fapesp.br/study-shows-kants-influence-on-georges-canguilhem-who-anticipated-concepts-current-in-medicine-today/41794/&utm_source=republish&utm_medium=republish&utm_content=https://agencia.fapesp.br/study-shows-kants-influence-on-georges-canguilhem-who-anticipated-concepts-current-in-medicine-today/41794/

Even though you can find a link to the paper in the press release, here’s my version of a citation complete with link,

From technique to normativity: the influence of Kant on Georges Canguilhem’s philosophy of life by Emiliano Sfara .History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences volume 45, Article number: 16 (2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-023-00573-8 Published: 06 April 2023

This paper is open access.

Coral reefs, beauty, citizen science, and surveys

I received this May 23, 2023 email invitation to participate in a citizen science project,

Dear all,

We need your valuable input to advance our research on the aesthetic value of tropical coral reefs! As a part of the Marine Science Department of the IPB University [Indonesia], the Lancaster Environment Centre [at Lancaster University, UK], the MARBEC laboratory [Marine Biodiversity Exploitation and Conservation (MARBEC)] research unit is one of the Unité mixte de recherche (UMR) partially funded by the CNRS], and the National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia [Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional, BRIN], we are conducting a survey to analyze human perspectives on the beauty of coral reefs.

By participating in this survey, you will play a vital role in the development of predictive computer models that can estimate the aesthetic value of different coral reefs. Your contribution will directly contribute to our ongoing research efforts. Estimated completion time is approximately 5 minutes.

Your participation is greatly appreciated, and together, we can make a significant impact on coral reef preservation and conservation. Please click the link below to start the survey:


Thank you also for sharing this survey within your network (professional and personal). Actually we are really counting on you to trigger a snow ball effect and get out of our community (academia and divers). You can also retweet & like on twitter here : https://twitter.com/NicolasMouquet/status/1658020475107266563?s=20 or tweet yourself (if you do, please tag @NicolasMouquet so we will like your tweet and get it up in the threads; also add an image on your own (or copy the one used in the above mentioned tweet) as pasting only the link to the survey shows up a generic image which is not related to the Beauty of Coral Reefs survey). Hear a simple text that could be used on other social media « Help shape future coral reef restoration! Take our 5-minute survey and pick the most beautiful coral reef images. Your input will fuels research on these natural wonders! https://www.biodiful.org/#/beautifulcorals»

Thank you for your time and support. Let’s work together to celebrate the beauty of coral reefs!


Nicolas Mouquet, CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique], MARBEC, University of Montpellier. 

In late April 2023, I received a link to a paper by Mouquet as a thank you for participating in another of his projects. (I looked at two side-by-side pictures of fishes and selected the one I found most attractive.) As you can see from the image below, I was one of 13,000 respondents.

Fig 1. Evaluation and prediction of fish aesthetic values. (1) Pairs of images were presented to the public during the online survey and scored using the Elo algorithm (see Methods). Left Parma bicolor and right Abudefduf luridus. (2) Once the 345 new images were evaluated online, the values of the 157 images previously evaluated [16] were corrected using the 21 images shared between the 2 surveys. (3) The resulting 481 images with evaluated aesthetic values were used to train a ResNet50 algorithm (see Text E and Fig L in S1 File). Illustration inspired from the PlotNeuralNet [31]. (b) Left: The r2 of the linear relationship between the predicted values averaged across the 5 validation sets and the evaluated values is 0.79 ± SD 0.04 (the color of points indicates the 5 sets used to perform the cross validation). This algorithm was used to predict the aesthetic values of the 4,400 unevaluated images of our dataset. Right: Distribution of the 481 evaluated values in light blue and of the 4,400 predicted aesthetic values in dark blue. The dots at the bottom of the plot indicate the predicted aesthetic values of the images shown in panel (c). Data and code required to generate this Figure can be found in https://github.com/nmouquet/RLS_AESTHE. (c) Examples of fishes representative of the range of predicted aesthetic values. Decreasing aesthetic value from left to right and top to bottom: Holacanthus ciliaris, Aracana aurita, Amphiprion ephippium, Ctenochaetus marginatus, Scarus spinus, Amphiprion bicinctus, Epinephelides armatus, Fusigobius signipinnis, Diplodus annularis, Odontoscion dentex, Nemadactylus bergi, Mendosoma lineatum. See S1 Data for image copyright. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640.g001 [Downloaded from https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640#pbio.3001640.s002]

Given how many people participated, I’m thrilled he got in touch,

Hello to all,

Finally some news about the internet campaign to measure the aesthetic value of reef fishes in which you participated in 2020. The time of research can sometimes be long and we were like you a little disturbed by the Covid episode, but here is where we are :We have published our results in an international scientific journal (Plos Biology) 😀 : Langlois J, Guilhaumon F, Baletaud F, Casajus N, De Almeida Braga C, Fleure V, Kulbicki K, Loiseau N, Mouillot D, Renoult JP, Stahl A, Stuart Smith RD, Tribot AS & N, Mouquet (2022) The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities. PLoS Biol 20(6): e3001640. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640

You can download the article here: http://nicolasmouquet.free.fr/pdf/Langlois_et_al_2022_Plos_Biology.htm

Here is a summary: Reef fishes are closely connected to many human populations, yet their contributions to society are mostly considered through their economic and ecological values. Cultural and intrinsic values of reef fishes to the public can be critical drivers of conservation investment and success, but remain challenging to quantify. Aesthetic value represents one of the most immediate and direct means by which human societies engage with biodiversity, and can be evaluated from species to ecosystems. Here, we provide the aesthetic value of 2,417 ray-finned reef fish species by combining intensive evaluation of photographs of fishes by humans with predicted values from machine learning. We identified important biases in species’ aesthetic value relating to evolutionary history, ecological traits, and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat status. The most beautiful fishes are tightly packed into small parts of both the phylogenetic tree and the ecological trait space. In contrast, the less attractive fishes are the most ecologically and evolutionary distinct species and those recognized as threatened. Our study highlights likely important mismatches between potential public support for conservation and the species most in need of this support. It also provides a pathway for scaling-up our understanding of what are both an important nonmaterial facet of biodiversity and a key component of nature’s contribution to people, which could help better anticipate consequences of species loss and assist in developing appropriate communication strategies.

This work has received a significant echo in the scientific community as well as in the international press and we are now busy using these data to assess the aesthetic value of entire fish communities on reefs globally.

Again, a huge thank you for your help, without you we could not have done this work! And I apologize for being so late in getting back to you. 🙏

Our work on assessing the aesthetic value of biodiversity does not stop of course! And we may be calling on you soon for new adventures!

In the meantime you can also have a look at a twitter account we just opened dedicated to the presentation of beautiful or repulsive species, but always amazing and especially essential for the functioning of ecosystems ! https://twitter.com/Biodi_ful

With kind regards,

Nicolas Mouquet


Nicolas Mouquet, CNRS

Scientific director of the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB)
5 Rue de l’École de Médecine
34000, Montpellier

Chercheur à MARBEC
Université de Montpellier
Place Eugène Bataillon, CC093
34095 Montpellier Cedex 05

You can sign up to get updates regarding the research once you’ve finished the survey.

In the meantime, here’s a link to and a citation (in my usual style) for the paper on the aesthetics of reef fishes,

The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities by Juliette Langlois, François Guilhaumon, Florian Baletaud, Nicolas Casajus, Cédric De Almeida Braga, Valentine Fleuré, Michel Kulbicki, Nicolas Loiseau, David Mouillot, Julien P. Renoult, Aliénor Stahl, Rick D. Stuart Smith, Anne-Sophie Tribot, Nicolas Mouquet. PLOS Biology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640 Published: June 7, 2022

This paper is open access.

You can find Nicolas Mouquet’s eponymous website here and you can start the coral reef survey here: https://www.biodiful.org/#/beautifulcorals.

What human speech, jazz, and whale song have in common

Credit: iStock/Velvetfish

Seeing connections between what seem to be unrelated activities such as human speech, jazz, and whale song is fascinating to me and I’m not alone. Scientists at the University of California at Merced (UC Merced) have delivered handily on that premise according to an Oct. 13, 2017 news item on phys.org,

Jazz musicians riffing with each other, humans talking to each other and pods of killer whales all have interactive conversations that are remarkably similar to each other, new research reveals.

Cognitive science researchers at UC Merced have developed a new method for analyzing and comparing the sounds of speech, music and complex animal vocalizations like whale song and bird song. The paper detailing their findings is being published today [Oct. 12, 2017] in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Their method is based on the idea that these sounds are complex because they have multiple layers of structure. Every language, for instance, has individuals sounds, roughly corresponding to letters, that combine to form syllables, words, phrases, sentences and so on. It’s a hierarchy that everyone understands intuitively. Musical compositions have their own temporal hierarchies, but until now there hasn’t been a way to directly compare the hierarchies of speech and music, or test whether similar hierarchies might exist in bird song and whale song.

An Oct. 12, 2017 UC Merced news release by Lorena Anderson, which originated the news item, provides more details about the investigation (Note: Links have been removed),

“Playing jazz music has been likened to a conversation among musicians, and killer whales are highly social creatures who vocalize as if they are talking to each other. But does jazz music really sound like a conversation, and do killer whales really sound like they are talking?” asked lead researcher and UC Merced professor Chris Kello. “We know killer whales are highly social and intelligent, but it’s hard to tell that they are interacting when you listen to recordings of them. Our method shows how much their sound patterns are like people talking, but not like other, less social whales or birds.”

The researchers figured out a way to measure and compare sound recordings by converting them into “barcodes” that capture clusters of sound energy, and clusters of clusters, across levels of a hierarchy. These barcodes allowed the researchers to directly compare temporal hierarchies in more than 200 recordings of different kinds of speech in six different languages, different kinds of popular and classical music, four different species of birds and whales singing their songs, and even thunderstorms.

Kello and his colleagues have been using the barcode method for several years. They first developed it in studies of conversations. The study published today is the first time that they applied the method to music and animal vocalizations.

“The method allows us to ask questions about language and music and animal songs that we couldn’t ask without a way to see and compare patterns in all these recordings,” Kello said.

A common song

The researchers compared barcode-style visualizations of recorded sounds.
Credit: UC Merced

Kello, fellow UC Merced cognitive science professor Ramesh Balasubramaniam, graduate student Butovens Me´de´ [or Médé] and collaborator professor Simone Dalla Bella also discovered that the haunting songs of huge humpback whales are remarkably similar to the beautiful songs of tiny nightingales and hermit thrushes in terms of their temporal hierarchies.

“Humpbacks, nightingales and hermit thrushes are solitary singers,” Kello said. “The barcodes show that their songs have similar layers of structure, but we don’t know what it means — yet.”

The idea for this project came from Kello’s sabbatical at the University of Montpellier in France, where he worked and discussed ideas with Dalla Bella. Balasubramaniam, who studies how music is perceived, is in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts with Kello, who studies speech and language processing. The project was a natural collaboration and is part of a growing research focus at UC Merced that was enabled by the National Science Foundation-funded CHASE summer school on Music and Language in 2014, and a Google Faculty Award to Kello.

Balasubramaniam is interested in continuing the work to better understand how brains distinguish between music and speech, while Kello said there are many different avenues to pursue.

For instance, the researchers found nearly identical temporal hierarchies for six different languages, which may suggest something universal about human speech. However, because this result was based on recordings of TED Talks — which have a common style and progression — Kello said it will be important to keep looking at other forms of speech and language.

One of his graduate students, Sara Schneider, is using the method to study the convergence of Spanish and English barcodes in bilingual conversations. Another graduate student, Adolfo Ramirez-Aristizabal, is working with Kello and Balasubramaniam to study whether the barcode method may shed light on how brains process speech and other complex sounds.

“Listening to music and speech, we can hear some of what we see in the barcodes, and the information may be useful for automatic classification of audio recordings. But that doesn’t mean that our brains process music and speech using these barcodes,” Kello said. “It’s intriguing, but we need to keep asking questions and go where the data lead us.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Hierarchical temporal structure in music, speech and animal vocalizations: jazz is like a conversation, humpbacks sing like hermit thrushes by Christopher T. Kello, Simone Dalla Bella, Butovens Médé, Ramesh Balasubramaniam. Journal of the Royal Society Interface DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0231 Published 11 October 2017

This paper appears to be open access.*

*”This paper is behind a paywall” was changed to “… appears to be open access.” at 1700 hours on January 23, 2018.