Three-Dimensional Mapping of Hawaiian Coral ReefsLatest update July 12, 2019 Started on January 2, 2019
The mission of our expedition is to map culturally and economically valuable marine reef environments in Hawaii. We develop new technologies to study reefs in critically important surfing and fishing areas throughout Hawaii.
The MEGA lab is preparing to embark on an expedition to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Island. PMNM is a World Heritage listed U.S. National Monument encompassing 583,000 square miles of ocean waters, including ten islands and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Our team will be using 3D technology to map coral reefs throughout the Monument. We will investigate the impacts of disturbance and disease on the composition and 3D habitat complexity of these reefs. These data will be used to assess the health of corals and predict how changes in reef community structure will affect large-scale ecological processes.
Working in the PMNM requires collaboration with NOAA on their research vessels. We spend 30-days on the ship launching small boats to conduct surveys on SCUBA. Using ROVs, like the Trident underwater drone, would allow us to map more reef area each day and maximize our data collection while working in this remote location. We hope to acquire and utilize ROV technology to enhance these studies in the future.
The MEGA lab just completed an expedition to Guam to conduct 3D mapping of coral reefs and underwater cultural heritage sites on naval submerged lands. The goal of the project is to examine coral community structure and 3D habitat complexity among various coastal zones and underwater wrecks from WWII. Finding and mapping the underwater artifacts is very exciting, and we look forward to quantifying how coral communities are forming on these artificial substrates.
In the future we hope to utilize ROVs, such as the Trident Underwater Drone, to enhance our ability to map underwater culture heritage sites. Often the wrecks and artifacts are located in deep water, which poses a challenge for 3D mapping using conventional SCUBA techniques. The Trident ROV would help increase our capacity to locate and map these important historical artifacts and examine how coral communities are forming on these structures.
This summer we have been mapping coral reefs along the West Coast of Hawaiʻi Island. The resulting 3D maps and mosaics are being used with exciting machine learning tools to try and improve our ability to study and track changes in coral health. Our team has been examining the health of corals both in the field and using digital analysis tools to annotate various disease conditions. We are attempting to develop Artificial Intelligence tools to help automate the identification and examination of disease states to help us track the health of these important corals. Our goal is to use technology to enhance the ability and efficiency of scientists to study and monitor coral reefs.
We hope to use ROVs, such as the Trident, to help increase our ability to map underwater habitat in 3D. ROVs will help us access areas and map at spatial scales that are difficult using SCUBA methods. Integrating ROV surveys with our machine learning tools will drastically improve our ability to map large reef areas.
A substantial amount of research is conducted on coral reefs as they are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. Few studies have investigated coastal reef systems that have unique cultural and economic value to local communities. This is in large part due to the difficultly in accessing reef systems exposed to high levels of wave energy, or areas heavily guarded for their value to artisanal fishing communities. This expedition explores the conditions of coral reefs within surf and fishing zones of critically high economic value. These systems are rarely, if ever, studied here in Hawaii. Our goal is to map and study these unique and important environments that have been overlooked due to reduced accessibility. We have cultivated relationships with people and places to enable us to three-dimensionally map these systems and study how they are responding to climate change.
Contribute to this expedition
Thank You for Your Contribution!