Seascape is a photogrammetry innovation being pioneered by New Zealand Geographic. It aims to transform our understanding of the marine realm through better visualisations and more accurate science. The result will be landscape-scale, photographic models of ecologically significant parts of the seafloor, providing high-quality data available to scientists, marine managers, and the public.
Over the past 18 months, the Seascape technology and methodology has modelled larger areas at an ever-increasing speed—now covering 200sqm in 6 minutes of dive time, which would have traditionally taken scientists a week using traditional methods.
Unlike sonar imaging, photogrammetry is millimeter-accurate and true-colour, allowing researchers to accurately identify, count or measure individual organisms, and share entire reefs of data across the world. It will help track habitat changes and allow the exploration of habitats that are out of reach of diver-based surveys. New Zealand Geographic has a deep commitment to the marine environment and is a leader in underwater virtual reality production. They produced the NZ-VR Project (rolled out in schools by BLAKE Trust), which has delivered more than 1 million virtual reality experiences to Kiwis to date.
As part of this work, Dr Arie Spyksma has taken up a post-doctoral fellowship exploring the applications of photogrammetry for a better understanding of the seafloor. He’ll work with Dr Nick Shears, whose kelp research is being supported by Live Ocean Foundation. Projects include monitoring the recovery of reefs following the removal of sea urchins, modelling and understanding the extent of kina barrens in the Hauraki Gulf as well as understanding its utility across a variety of different seafloor habitats found around New Zealand.
This research will have a highly visual application using VR tools for public engagement. It also brings together different strands of work between the University of Auckland and New Zealand Geographic projects, that are funded by Live Ocean Foundation.
“Adapting photogrammetry technology for use underwater will give us the view of our marine habitats that satellite imagery provides on land. Our hope is that this insight leads to better decision making, more robust science, and a public more engaged in the fate of the marine space.”
JAMES FRANKHAM NZ GEOGRAPHIC