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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Using Technology to Improve Conservation: Virtual Environments for Testing Actionable Metrics of Scientific Methodology for Measuring Coral Recruits in the Field


As scientists, we have embraced underwater survey and design methods, often with limited time and resources to fully test each step of the work flow to understand which method provides the most robust metrics we are after. In a timely experiment, given this pandemic era of limited field research, I investigated the use of virtual corals and animation of photographic patterns to simulate real life survey methods. These methods use thousands of photographs collected in the field to reconstruct 3D corals reefs, from which we collect 2D metrics of coral growth. Being that this 3D technology is being used to collect 2D metrics, I wanted to investigate if the 3 types of current methodology used for large scale rapid assessments are appropriate for collecting 3D metrics of individual coral colonies. Furthermore, I investigated if changes in the camera angle and photo percent overlap enhanced the collection of data points for reconstructing the reef scene, and tested the accuracy (percent error) for objects reconstructed in the scene for each method. This could serve as an informative metric in the case of experimentation, giving valuation to a damaged reef, and in coral restoration design.

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