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The hard science that comes from underwater panoramas
Friday, June 12, 2015
Editors’ note: This is the second post in a series of guest entries by members of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey team, a group dedicated to recording, researching, and revealing the world’s coral reefs in high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic imagery.
For researchers at
XL Catlin Seaview Survey
, the brilliant blues and reds of Asia’s
rich coral reefs on Google Maps
are more than pretty photographs. They’re scientific records, capturing the health and condition of coral reefs and allowing scientists to track their changes.
As we said
in our previous blogpost
, Asia is home to some of the world’s most stunning marine and coral ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast, and the Philippines’ Tubbataha Natural Marine Park. Reefs generally fall into two kinds: shallow and deep reefs, each one requiring different imagery-collection methods.
Our Shallow Reef Team collects imagery of coral that rest about 10 to 12 meters under the sea. This imagery can provide a highly detailed baseline image for monitoring coral health over time. The fact that these panoramas are pinned to exact GPS locations makes it easy for anyone to visit that site and assess change.
Baseline image collected by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey showing automated analysis
The Deep Reef Team, on the other hand, are specialist divers who dive and collect imagery from up to and beyond 100m depths, using Remotely Operated Vehicles. The team collects coral samples from the deep reef to assess biodiversity in these little-explored areas and uses genetic tools to examine how corals living in shallow and deep waters may be related to each other.
The XL Catlin Seaview Survey Deep Reef Team deploying the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle)
The XL Catlin Seaview Survey Deep Reef Team reviewing coral samples
collected on the Great Barrier Reef expedition
Together, these two teams have collected more than 700,000 panoramas since 2012. After the collections, we analyze the images to understand the reef’s ecology and to make decisions about where to focus conservation efforts. Analysis used to be slow, painstaking work, but thanks to our partnership with
Scripps Institution at UC San Diego
we now use computers — based on methods similar to facial recognition technology — and have increased the speed of our work 10-30x. Thirty years of manual work can now be processed in a year.
Example of data collected from Tubbataha Natural Marine Park, Philippines,
available in the XL Catlin Global Reef Record
Already, more than 300,000 of the images collected are available online, enabling scientists around the world to better understand changes to coral reefs and related marine environments.
By bringing this breadth of high-quality underwater imagery online, we hope to help scientists, policy makers, and the public to see and understand the issues facing coral reefs, and to work out what needs to be done to best protect reefs now and in the future.
Posted by Dr David Harris, Research and Special Projects Manager, Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia.
1 comment :
Andro Market ID
nice post :)
June 24, 2015 at 12:46 PM
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