6 October 2017
Scientists from UQ’s Global Change Institute and XL-Catlin Seaview Survey have compared their semi-autonomous method for collecting coral reef images with conventional fixed-frame photographic techniques. Photo: Catlin XL Seaview Survey, Maldives 2015
Scientists from UQ’s Global Change Institute and XL-Catlin Seaview Survey have compared their semi-autonomous method for collecting coral reef images with conventional fixed-frame photographic techniques. Photo: Catlin XL Seaview Survey, Maldives 2015

University of Queensland researchers have demonstrated that emerging underwater data collection technologies can be as good if not better than conventional methods of marine investigation.

Coral reef scientists from UQ’s Global Change Institute and XL-Catlin Seaview Survey compared their semi-autonomous method for collecting coral reef images with a conventional fixed-frame photographic technique.

UQ PhD candidate Dominic Bryant said comparison between the two techniques revealed there was little difference when it came to determining the condition of coral reefs.

“It shows the growing importance that fully and/or semi-autonomous vehicles will have when it comes to understanding the impacts facing the world’s coral reefs,” Mr Bryant said.

Fixed-frame comparison

In research published in the scientific journal ECOSPHERE, images taken along a 50-metre section of coral reef in the Maldives using a XL Catlin Seaview SVII camera were compared with images recorded using a conventional fixed-frame underwater camera.

The XL Catlin Seaview SVII camera was mounted on a motorised underwater scooter moving at up to 2 km/h, allowing it to capture high-resolution 360° panoramic images, every three seconds.

Using the online image repository CoralNet, Mr Bryant annotated each of the images, calculating the percentage of coral cover and other metrics used to measure the condition of coral reefs.

“It’s exciting because coral reef scientists can confidently compare geo-referenced coral reef imagery collected by the XL-Catlin Seaview Survey with images taken using more conventional methods,” he said.

“To understand changes in coral reef condition, it’s important to make comparisons over time.

“The SVII has the ability to collect and analyse more than a thousand images per 1500 –2000 metre transect, which would otherwise take a large amount of time and cost using conventional human-based methods.

“Furthermore, surveys performed without an underwater scooter are nearly impossible in areas with strong currents.”

Geo-referenced images and data processed using machine learning algorithms can be accessed through XL-Catlin Global Reef Record, an open-access online repository.

The Global Change Institute is the leading scientific partner for the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, an international research project sponsored by global insurer XL Catlin and managed by The Ocean Agency.


Media contact: Ron Hohenhaus, gcicomms@uq.edu.au or 0438 285 283

Link to the original research paper: 'Comparison of two photographic methodologies for collecting and analyzing the condition of coral reef ecosystems'.

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