RPI and Woods Hole collaborate on underwater imaging of ocean floor and seawater

A partnership between Rensselaer and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is expected to provide scientists with new tools to study ocean ecosystems.

Feb 23rd, 2011

Peter Fox and Charles Stewart, data scientists atRensselaer Polytechnic Institute, are beginning a large-scale collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanography Institution (WHOI), utilizing a more than $2 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Fox, Stewart, and their students will work with WHOI oceanographers and computer scientists to better analyze and interpret data from some of the sophisticated WHOIunderwater imaging technologies in order to maximize the return on investment of the gathered data.

WHOI’s FlowCytobot, an automated underwater microscope, identifies and counts tiny phytoplankton in the water. These microorganisms can be important indicators to ecosystem health,biodiversity, or environmental contamination. The technologies also include SeaBED, an autonomous underwater vehicle that hovers slightly above the seafloor at depths up to 6000 ft and takes highly detailed sonar and optical images of the seafloor, and HabCam, the habitat mapping camera system that is moved above the seafloor, creating a continuous image ribbon.

“Images taken underwater present unique challenges for computers due to distortion from the water as well as the large amount of material that floats through the water and cloud the images,” says Stewart. “As a result, important information from the image is forever lost to scientists.”

Stewart will use algorithms and software to interpret and refine images from the WHOI technologies. Fox will work with WHOI researchers to apply tools that allow the data from these technologies and others like them to be easily accessed and shared among researchers and the public. A large part of this work will be accomplished by incorporating Semantic Web and knowledge provenance or origins technologies to the raw and processed data produced by the WHOI technologies, according to Fox. Semantic technology encodes data with information that computers or other web-enabled devices can use to better share, search, and interpret the data.

SOURCE:The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution / RPI

-- Posted byVision Systems Design

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