The ability to remotely sense coral health and abundance is an important goal in helping manage these globally important resources. Digital surveys of coral reefs can provide archives of health status for precise comparison to conditions in the future. Most reef surveys are conducted by visual inspection by scuba divers, and health status is often lumped into crude categories of “healthy,” “bleached,” etc. More precise metrics of coral health, based for example on quantitative photosynthetic function, will allow more accurate assessment of changes in reef condition through time. Previous coral health/identification systems have been tripod based (stationary) utilizing only one camera with rotating filters. These systems, though effective at monitoring coral habitats, are very limited in the amount of coverage that is acquired. Mobile systems are needed in order to dynamically acquire and digitize data from reef transects at the discretion of a diving operator. AIVL has developed a prototype multi-sensor, multi-spectral survey system that meets the scientific survey needs of both the scientific community and the resource management community. This proposal seeks funds for field-testing of this new imaging system in coral habitats in and around the Gulf of Mexico with the National Park Service and Ocean Gate.
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