After our previous post on Isla del Coco, we hear more about the research and data collection being done sponsored by National Geographic. There are a number of initiatives that pique our interest:
For Shark Week, they are looking at computer vision to monitor the underwater populations:
For the biology of the Island this has a particular scientific value when we talk about Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) as Computer Vision is already being used in Galapagos. So if we are sharing populations between the Islands, we will know by name which ones make the travel and when they do it.
We hope to use computer vision to identify individuals with the following species:
- Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus)
- Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier)
- Cetacea such as Whales and Dolphins
For networking all the monitoring data:
Long range and low power devices like TheThingsNetwork and easy to use microcontrollers are changing the game so much that it is not enough to make, and encourage the maker community to build devices useful for scientists and rangers, but it is important to teach them how to program their own, understand how code works and to have them work with hardware.
They continue their work with the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, although due to degradation of their Internet connection, they are setting up a local method for MakeCode editing
Finally, they are hoping to be sponsored for a remote underwater drone. You can help for free!
A number of corporate sponsors have gathered around the Science Exploration and Education Initiative to donate Tridents to applicants, to which we are now a part of.
Having one of this amazing drones will allow Rangers and visiting Scientist:
- Night exploration: Bull Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) have been visiting the Island since 2006 where they have been decimating Turtles and Silky Sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) to the point that both are now rare. In the last few years, attacks to humans have made necessary to prohibit any night dives (except for specific scientific reasons). This, we think has lowered the chances for species discovery as we can only be under for less than half a day. We are also interested in doing ultra-violet phosphorescence studies of the reef corals and other species, since this has not been explored in the past in this environment.
- Boat hull inspection: As nature is an absolute priority on the Island, the inspection of the hulls of boats is very important to determine the level of dirt and contamination a visiting boat might expose to the Island.
- Longer, frequent reef monitoring: The planning and frequency of the expeditions is mostly determined by the schedules of visiting tourists, and dive times limited by the diving gear. Having an unmanned drone will allow for less gear, lighter boats, and very frequent visits to the reef, specially parts that are infrequent or restricted to tourists.
- Mapping: At Greencore we have been builing a +140 Xeon cluster for image processing, in preparation for doing aerial photography and then convert it to 3D precision maps of the Island, available under free content licenses like Creative Commons. To our surprise this opportunity might shift our priorities so that we start underwater mapping before the aerial one.
But this is the one new that has created a sparkle of anticipation for Rangers and Researchers:
- Unfrequently-explored depths: The current diving gear has allowed most of the exploration to happen at around 20 meters, with a maximum of 35 meters. Sometimes there is a chance to hire piloted submersibles with depth ranges of about 100 meters to 450 meters, so there is a huge gap in the explored depths of what is called the mesophotic zone. A quick recount with the rangers brings to memory a handful of +100m dives, but none at the 35m-100m range, so this is an amazing chance for species discovery.
For us we still have a lot of things to show the S.E.E. Initiative that there is a need to have this amazing equipment in the number #4 site ranked among Marine Protected Areas, to demonstrate ways we plan to use it, to build a program for free training and certification for Rangers and Scientist, and to start integrating it to future research programs on Coco’s Island.
What can you do?
We need more followers for our expedition, so we could appreciate it if you click the Follow button at the top of the Expedition and if necessary follow the steps to create an account in the Openexplorer social network from NatGeo.