Scientists with the Department of Environment can now study Cayman’s coral reefs in digital detail thanks to a technique called photogrammetry.
By creating 3-D models of actual coral reefs, researchers can collect scientific data without the need to shimmy into a wet suit.
From the relative comfort of the DOE conference room, visiting scientist Tammi Warrender took Cayman 27 along on a 3-D virtual tour of one of Cayman’s best-loved and most popular dive sites, Eden Rock.
It’s all possible thanks to a technique called photogrammetry.
“What makes photogrammetry so useful for us as scientists at the DOE is the fact that we can bring the reef home with us, pretty much,” said Ms. Warrender.
In about a half-hour’s time, Ms. Warrender said, it’s possible for a diver to collect enough images of a reef to create a detailed 3-D model.
“When you’re limited for time in the water, when you can’t use the boat, or you can’t get to a specific site because it is too rough with the weather, you can use this model to calculate the information that you want from the comfort of your chair,” said Ms. Warrender.
Ms. Warrender told Cayman 27 photogrammetry is useful in monitoring coral bleaching, detecting the advancement of coral disease, and calculating damage from ship grounding incidents.
“They want to know exactly how much area has been damaged, so by using photogrammetry, you get it exact measurements of surface area,” she explained.
Ms. Warrender said the technique has helped maximise scientific productivity.
“You can bring all of the data back with you, and then make it into 3-D, then you can do all of the work on the computer,” said Ms. Warrender.
Ms. Warrender told Cayman 27 the source images are captured from about two meters above the reef, by swimming over it in a back-and-forth lawnmower pattern with a GoPro camera.
She said the sophisticated software and its complex algorithms then create the 3-D mosaic.