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Developing and Scaling Up Emerging Image-based Technology for Evaluating Mission: Iconic Reefs Large-scale Coral Restoration in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Region(s) of Study: U.S. States and Territories / Florida
This project began in January 2020 and is projected to be completed in December 2022.

Mission: Iconic Reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) is the largest coral restoration project in the U.S. to date. Evaluation of the success of large-scale, long-term restoration efforts relies on the development and application of new technologies, such as large-area imagery. NCCOS and partners are helping meet this need for FKNMS by assembling existing imagery across the Iconic Reefs, collecting new imagery to address gaps, developing new capacities for analytic software to support visualization and bathymetric co-registration, and assembling all files in a format usable by the Iconic Reefs team and partners.

Why We Care
Evaluation of the success of innovative, large-scale, long-term coral restoration—such as Mission: Iconic Reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary—requires the application of emerging technologies. Large-area imagery of the seafloor is an effective way to capture permanent snapshots of conditions to track changes over time and in relation to different reefs or different restoration approaches.

The research team will use imagery acquired by multi-agency, academic, and industry partners at multiple spatial scales to create underwater image mosaics that provide more accurate, precise, and synoptic information of protected coral species and the coral reef. Developing the capability to co-register spatially and temporally separate underwater image mosaics is critical to scale up coral restoration techniques. The proposed imagery-based evaluation method for reef restoration is unprecedented and will help improve and scale up methods for restoring coastal habitat. Expanded use will enhance ocean science partnerships in exploration and technical innovation, and will support large-scale restoration of Florida Keys coral reefs that power the American Blue Economy.

What We Are Doing
NCCOS and project partners are developing and applying emerging technology in large-area imagery and analytics to visualize and evaluate restoration at Mission: Iconic Reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In this project, NCCOS and partners are working to:

  • Develop and assess transformative technologies and advanced computer vision mapping tools and uncrewed underwater systems to build a foundation for moving 3D geodata processing, data archival, and data visualization to a cloud platform.
  • Develop a unified and common geospatial and visualization framework to provide the capability to seamlessly share information content across disciplines.
  • Share software and training materials with project collaborators to increase the analytic capacity applied to evaluate Iconic Reefs restoration.
  • Compile large-area, underwater imagery from Mission: Iconic Reefs by project collaborators.
  • Compile high-resolution bathymetry in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
  • Use these compilations to produce a virtual platform to provide more accurate, precise, and synoptic information on protected coral species and the coral reef habitat.
  • Share visualization outputs with collaborators to benefit Mission: Iconic Reefs.

In addition, NCCOS is collecting new imagery at Iconic Reefs using uncrewed underwater vehicles.

Project collaborators include NCCOS, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Restoration Center, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, University of Miami, University of California–San Diego, Coral Restoration Foundation, Mote Marine Lab, Reef Renewal USA, and U.S. Geological Survey. The project was funded by NOAA’s National Oceanographic Partnership Program.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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