St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
This project was initiated in 2003 to develop algorithms and ground-truthing technology in support of scientific applications of the Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL), a waveform-resolving lidar system capable of simultaneously mapping subaerial and submerged topography. Resultant products include the Airborne Lidar Processing System (ALPS) for exploring and processing lidar waveforms and creating digital elevation models; a prototype of the Along-Track Reef Imaging System (ATRIS) for collecting geo-located, color digital images to ground-truth EAARL data products; and a library of algorithms for extracting "bald earth" topography under a variety of vegetation types and for quantifying vegetation canopy characteristics.
In recent years, ATRIS development has continued, yielding 3 different deployment configurations to meet different scientific needs and depth ranges. The scope of the project has also taken a broader view of "remote sensing" to include ship-based, multibeam sonar and diver-based fluorescence imaging systems. The focus has been on developing algorithms for characterizing and classifying features on the seafloor using data collected by both airborne and underwater instrumentation. Examples include applying principles of fractal geometry to model the structural complexity of the seafloor and using the fluorescent properties of corals to improve automated image classification and investigate linkages to coral diseases. In addition to their scientific merit, these tools benefit a number of research projects, including several tasks within the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project.