First the Great Barrier Reef, then Florida and now Hawaii is getting the Google Street View love. According to a recent Associated Press report, Hawaii’s reefs are getting mapped as part of a larger project by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey.
The research team is make thousands of images of reef around the world to try to understand why certain species of coral are more susceptible to bleaching than others. An interesting part of this project is the use GPS tags and facial recognition technology to identify and organize individual reef systems.
According to the story, Dr. Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero (a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland and a member of the survey crew) said the team is using a type of technology not unlike the facial recognition software Facebook uses to recognize people in photos uploaded to the site.
“We apply that to coral,” he said. “We train it in a way so that the machine starts recognizing different types of corals, and it can process about 500,000 images in about a week.”
According to the team this is anywhere from 30 to 50 times faster than the traditional method of photographing and processing images of coral for research, allowing them to capture larger areas of all the reefs they visit.
Like the other publicized efforts in the project, the team is in a partnership with Google that uploads the images to Google Street View, giving you a way to explore the reef ecosystem from the comfort of your Internet connection.
Sadly not all is rosy with this venture as one reason they are doing this is to examine coral bleaching that is popping up due to increased water temperatures from the Pacific Blob and other unknown variable. The mapping allows the team to get a baseline to compare to future expeditions as well as identify contributing factors.
The Seaview Survey had baseline images of a section of the Great Barrier Reef that was later damaged by a typhoon. The crew went back to capture the damage, giving researchers a clear view of the loss involved with a major storm.
[via Associated Press from ABC.com]