Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea. They occupy less than 0.1 percent of the ocean floor but provide a habitat for 25 percent of the world’s marine species. And like rain forests, coral reefs are at severe risk due to a range of human activity—from destructive fishing practices and careless tourists to pollution and (most significantly) climate change.
A critical component of addressing threats to coral reefs is understanding the scope of the damage. But traditional methods of monitoring reefs are based on extremely inefficient and error-prone manual measurements of corals using tape measures.
Bring on Reality Capture
The Hydrous, a not-for-profit organization involved in coral reef science and research, is using Reality Computing to create very detailed 3D models of coral reefs. The team uses an underwater digital camera and Autodesk photogrammetry software to digitally capture portions of coral reefs and create 3D models that can be used to accurately measure and monitor the reefs over time.
For example, during one of the group’s expeditions, researchers took over 27,000 underwater photographs of coral reefs off the shore of Kalaupapa, on the small Hawaiian island of Molokai. In five days, the group generated over two terabytes of data and produced more than 100 models of corals!
Sly Lee, a marine scientist and founder of The Hydrous, remarked that this workflow is a non-invasive, highly accurate, and visual method of measuring coral reef growth over time. “High-resolution 3D models make it easy for us to view and monitor growth, physical impacts, disease, and bleaching. This is going to revolutionize coral reef science and education,” said Lee.
Visit http://thehydro.us/portfolio/coralreefs to view 3D models of corals and see video footage of the reality capture process. And for more info on The Hydrous and its projects, check out these articles:
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