We have ended our survey of the coral reef systems of the Tubbataha Natural Reefs Park (TRNP), pulling into Puerto Princesa harbor just ahead of the winds and rain of Tropical Depression Caloy. The work of capturing data has ended and the processing of the approximately 33,000 images is set to begin. Through our time working with the Tubbataha Management Office we've formed a strong relationship that will lead to co-authored publications on the ecology of the park that will help guide management actions in the future. The input of the three staff members we had on board was invaluable in locating the research sites, understanding the history of the park, and appreciating the uniqueness of this wonderful natural resource in the Philippines.
The processing of the images collected by the SVII camera first involves color correction of the wide-angle fisheye images, then the images are "flattened" to account for lens distortion. This work is completed by our specialized SeaView Labs team.
The images will be used to investigate the makeup of the benthic community using CoralNet, an automated, online, computer-vision driven image processing system developed by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. This large data set will be compared to hand-gathered data from past years, but will involve considerably less time in analysis, thus assisting in developing a tool that can hopefully be used by marine protected areas worldwide interested in mapping and understanding larger areas of the ocean. We hope to complete the processing for this trip within a month of two, and all images and derived data will be posted to the Catlin Global Reef Record for public use.
Thanks to the great dive boat that served as our research vessel, Atlantis Azores. They kept us fed, warm, and dry in comfort and style, and drove their skiffs to all the sites we wanted, even in very challenging sea conditions, on the weather-exposed side of rough and remote reefs. They are truly a world-class crew on a stout boat. Thanks very much, guys!
This has been a successful start to the Coral Triangle campaign, with the TRNP providing a solid reference for what a healthy reef system in this region should look like. The next stop for the shallow reef team will be the Solomon Islands, situated at the eastern boundary of the Coral Triangle. We depart April 22, in collaboration with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.