Computer Vision Coral Ecology

In the last 3 decades up to 80% of coral coverage has been lost in the Caribbean and up to 50% in the Indo-Pacific. Rapid climate change driven by global warming and ocean acidification may accelerate this decline resulting in the massive loss of coral reefs as we know them. While the stresses on corals are numerous and the reasons why coral abundances have declined are complex, a substantial amount of the coral reef research is done manually by divers. This limits the time resolution and the scale of the surveys and leads to a lack of information.

In this project we are working in collaboration with coral ecologists to build advanced optical imaging systems for automating ecological coral surveys. I have developed a day time wide field fluorescence imaging system, and a multispectral underwater imaging system. These are important, as they provide additional information channels, on top of regular images.

Underwater Microscope

Phytoplankton (microscopic algae) are the foundation of the aquatic food web: feeding everything from microscopic, animal-like zooplankton to multi-ton whales. Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide on a scale equivalent to forests and other land plants. While they are very important ecologically, still little is know about their ecology as they are extremely hard to image in-situ: they are tiny, transparent, and drifting in the ocean.

We have been funded to create the world's first multi-resolution, 3-D, underwater video microscope. We have deployed the first version on July 2012, imaging with 3 micron resolution in-situ.