O. Pizarro, S.B. Williams, M.V. Jakuba, M. Johnson-Roberson, I. Mahon, M. Bryson, D. Steinberg, A.Friedman, D. Dansereau, N. Nourani-Vatani, D. Bongiorno, M. Bewley, A. Bender, N. Ashan, B. Douillard
Underwater Technology Symposium
Australias Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) has a strategic focus on the impact of major boundary currents on continental shelf environments, ecosystems and biodiversity. To improve our understanding of natural, climate change, and human-induced variability in shelf environments, the IMOS Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) facility has been charged with generating physical and biological observations of benthic variables that cannot be cost-effectively obtained by other means. Starting in 2010, the IMOS AUV facility began collecting precisely navigated benthic imagery using AUVs at selected reference sites on Australia's shelf. This observing program capitalizes on the unique capabilities of AUVs that have allowed repeated visits to the reference sites, providing a critical observational link between oceanographic and benthic processes. This paper provides a brief overview of the relevant capabilities of the AUV facility, the design of the IMOS benthic sampling program, and some preliminary results. We also report on some of the challenges and potential benefits to be realized from a benthic observation system that collects several TB of geo-referenced stereo imagery a year. This includes collaborative semi-automated image analysis, clustering and classification, large scale visualization and data mining, and lighting correction for change detection and characterization. We also mention some of the lessons from operating an AUV-based monitoring program and future work in this area.