Featured News Items:
July 2023 – Ocean Imaging Renews Long-Term Contract with the City of San Diego to Help Monitor Coastal Water Quality
Since 2002 Ocean Imaging (OI) has partnered with the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department and the United Stated International Boundary and Water Commission to utilize satellite and aerial imagery to better understand regional water quality conditions off San Diego California. OI pioneered the utility of satellite and aerial remote sensing for detection of polluted coastal runoff and sewage outfall effluent plumes in the mid-’90s as part of coastal applications development work funded by NASA’s Commercial Remote Sensing Program. That research led to several demonstration studies with promising results. The EPA and California state agencies took notice of OI’s work and in 2002 a remote sensing-based monitoring component was formally added to two sewage discharger permits in the San Diego-Tijuana, Mexico region. Successes in the project’s first year resulted in the project’s extension, and now 21 years later the City has contracted with OI for another five years. The project is presently focused on detecting and tracking the dispersion of wastewater plumes from local ocean outfalls and nearshore sediment plumes caused by stormwater runoff or outflows from local bays and rivers such as the Tijuana River just south of the U.S.–Mexican border. OI will also build a state-of-the art dashboard-style, interactive website that facilitates increased and more efficient analysis of the remotely-sensed data by the City’s researchers and constituents. Take a look at this video for more information: https://www.sandiego.gov/public-utilities/sustainability/ocean-monitoring/reports/ocean-imaging-report-archives.
2022-2023 - OCEAN IMAGING Works With Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to Map Coastal Kelp Beds
As has been emphasized in previous OI News stories, Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and Bull Kelp (Nereocystis) forests along the west coast of North America and around the world are a valuable resource and provide a critical habitat and nursery grounds to hundreds of marine species such as seals, sea urchins, abalone, sea otters, octopuses, numerous fish species and even whales. These underwater ecosystems are well known for their rich biodiversity and carbon storing capacity. These large brown algae can grow up to a foot a day but can also be nearly wiped out by a single storm. Over the past several years the health of kelp beds along the Oregon Coast has been highly variable with beds in some areas showing extreme decline. In areas such as the waters off Port Orford and Cape Blanco that were once robust, thriving kelp forests are now virtually barren due to exploding populations of purple sea urchins which will graze the kelp beds down to almost nothing. Ocean Imaging (OI) has been mapping kelp around the world since the late 1990s.
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NOVEMBER 2021 - OCEAN IMAGING COMPLETES STUDY TO IMPROVE OIL DETECTION CAPABILITY USING A PROTABLE, UAS-BASED SCAT RECONNAISSANCE SYSTEM
In 2019 Ocean Imaging was awarded funding for a two-year project to develop Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) designed to help detect and map oil in coastal and inland zones. Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique (SCAT) operations are a fundamental part of oil spill response for both marine and inland spills. The project funded by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) division aimed to incorporate more sophisticated sensors into a portable sUAS to assess the efficacy of the enhanced equipment and novel oil detection algorithms designed to help responders and SCAT teams more quickly and accurately identify and assess oiled areas in shoreline and inland waterway habitats.
The system was built using CDFW’s exiting sUAS platform and multispectral camera adding two additional cameras imaging in the ultraviolet and thermal infrared wavelengths. Custom software was written to facilitate the incorporation of these sensors and processing of the resulting data. Ultimately two study locations in California (the McKittrick natural oil seeps and a natural seep oiled beach below Carpinteria Bluffs in California) were chosen that offered fresh and weathered oil targets needed for the creation of an oil detection and classification algorithm. A multistep image processing algorithm was developed using the new sensor bands that effectively classified high probability oil targets with minimal false positive identifications. The results of the study showed that a sUAS equipped with a state of the art, 5-channel multispectral and thermal infrared imaging system could provide accurate and easy to interpret oil identification information to SCAT and other response workers at a reasonable cost.
The Lower Florida Keys are the unique home to the Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium), a subspecies of the whitetail deer and federally listed as an endangered species. Saved from extinction in the 1950s, the deer have rebounded from a mere 25-50 individuals in 1950, to 700-800 today. Affected by major habitat losses in the past decades, as well as recent mass casualties during a screwworm epidemic in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017, their most persistent cause of death is a collision with a motor vehicle. Each year 100+ Key deer (i.e. 9-15% of the entire world population) die that way.
There are plentiful road signs alerting motorists to the presence of deer on Big Pine and No Name Keys – the two islands holding the majority of the Key deer population. Smaller sub-herds also live on neighboring islands to the west, however, where no signage has historically existed, and most tourists and even many residents are unaware of the possibility of a collision with a deer. Ocean Imaging’s President, Dr. Jan Svejkovsky, lives in the Keys and with his wife runs the non-profit organization “Save Our Key Deer” (SOKD). For the past 2 years SOKD has been lobbying the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) to install deer-warning signs on all islands with Key deer herds, in hopes that the raised awareness may reduce the number of collisions and deer deaths. In late 2019 FDOT agreed to the signage additions. The question then was where to locate the signs for best effect?
SOKD obtained detailed vehicle-caused deer death location records from the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Monroe County Sherriff’s Office for the past 8 years,
and Ocean Imaging technicians used GIS analysis software to create maps of collision “hot spots”. The hot spots indicate where the deer cross the road most frequently which, in turn, tends to correlate with natural resources (e.g. a drinking water source) or human-related ones (e.g dumpsters behind a restaurant where deer tend to look for food scraps). The hot spot results were forwarded to FDOT by SOKD and are being used to plan out the new sign locations to be installed later this year or in early 2021.