FGCU researchers help create app for identifying venomous snakes

Reporter: Asha Patel Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
A man takes a picture of a snake with his phone. Credit: James Greco

Researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University collaborated with scientists from all around the world to create an app that can help you quickly identify different snake species and whether or not they are venomous.

Doctors and people who have been bitten by snakes will be able to know within minutes, even seconds, how dangerous that bite could be.

A man takes a picture of a snake with his phone. Credit: James Greco

Dr. Andrew Durso, an assistant professor of wildlife biology at FGCU, has been working with a team of researchers from the University of Switzerland and the World Health Organization for the last four years to create this app. Every year, half a million people around the world are bitten by venomous snakes. Durso hopes this app can help people, especially in a snake-rich place like Florida.

“You can expect the ability to send in a photograph of a snake from any location on Earth and to get back, within a few seconds, a prediction from the computer vision algorithm, as well as—ideally, within a few minutes, maybe as long as an hour or something like that—verification, or not, from a human,” Durso said. “Of course, the computer is not perfect, right? It does make mistakes sometimes. And, in serious situations where the identity is really important, you want to keep that human in the loop.”

A rattlesnake in a plastic container. Credit: Rhett Stanberry

WHO’s plan is to decrease the number of deaths and disabilities caused by venomous snakebites by half. Durso says he hopes this app can help people stay safe.

“It’s perfectly fine to use it to identify snakes that you see and I think the more we learn about snakes, in general, the more comfortable people can feel making good decisions when they see a snake in their yard or neighborhood,” Durso said.

The app is not yet available to download onto your phone, but there is a website for it.

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