Hyperspectral imaging and coral reefs

Jonathan Teague writes about his doctoral research project, funded by the Perivoli Foundation…

In situ Hyperspectral imaging has the potential to provide a new tool for rapidly assessing coral ‘health’ on both the reefs scale and the colony scale. Visibly bleached coral as identified by the human eye or basic optical systems, such as an RGB Camera, has expelled around 70% or more of its symbionts. By comparison, the hyperspectral systems ability to make quantitative measurements of intensity and wavelength can detect expulsions within the 0-70% range, before it becomes visible to the eye.

By developing low-cost hyperspectral imagers from DSLRs, the financial burden of these tools can be reduced by up to 80%. The use of DSLR cameras also offers other key advantages, as they are already well implemented in underwater photography (in both scientific & hobbyist applications), making them affordable and accessible both in supply and use. This means that non-specialised personnel can access and use this technology with relatively little training, thereby reducing dependency on highly skilled divers or marine scientists for surveying.

The aim of the project is to further establish the technology and methodology for applying it on live reefs, cultivating a network of ‘user’ academics in the marine science sector to (i) spread knowledge, (ii) gather potential additional applications and (iii) establish new collaborations. Proving the technology to other academic groups (on loan) will be vital as this will inform and advise on the development of a best practises guide and methodology for survey plans that can be disseminated among wider audiences and marine non-government organisations (NGOs) for effective management of marine environments.

hyperspectral imager

Map of coral reefs in Africa:

Source: Teh et al (2013). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065397

Key Papers Published to date: