Successful trial first step in broadening reef monitoring capabilities

A new AIMS-designed tool to help increase the scale of coral reef monitoring, the ReefScan Transom, was recently trialled for the first time.

Reef Joint Field Management Program representatives – including AIMS technology leaders and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers and technology specialists – trialled the high-resolution optical imaging system with artificial intelligence computing capabilities at Wistari Reef near Heron Island.

Mounted on an adjustable transom pole attached to surface vessel, the imaging system is designed to emulate manta tow surveys which involve towing a trained observer at a constant speed behind a small vessel to make a visual assessment of the reef and record these data.

Geoff Page of AIMS and Dylan Evans of QPWS in the field with the deck-box computer system that controls the ReefScan Transom cameras and stores the images.
The ReefScan Transom: high-res imaging collects information on the seafloor which can be geotagged into a single, large mosaic for use in GIS platforms. This creates a powerful record of reef condition for future comparison.

It can be used for broadscale benthic monitoring – such as surveying coral reefs, crown-of-thorns starfish and seagrass – in both shallow and deep water, allowing reef monitoring teams to delve deeper and undertake missions beyond human endurance.

The user-friendly system is designed to empower new groups of people to collect and share marine monitoring data and reduces the need to put snorkellers in the water, an issue where there are marine dangers and other safety issues.

The images collected form a powerful visual record of the state of the Reef at that time and can be used to track changes down to individual coral heads.

The collected images are geotagged using a surface GPS allowing the images to be ‘stitched’ together into a single large mosaic. This in turn can be overlaid onto a GIS or satellite image using programs such as Google Earth.

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