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Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society

COMMUNITY WHITE PAPER10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.81

Optical Plankton Imaging and Analysis Systems for Ocean Observation

Michael E. Sieracki(1), Mark Benfield(2), Allen Hanson(3), Cabell Davis(4), Cynthia H. Pilskaln(5), David Checkley(6), Heidi M. Sosik(4), Carin Ashjian(4), Philip Culverhouse(7), Robert Cowen(8), Rubens Lopes(9), William Balch(1), Xabier Irigoien(10)

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Digital images of suspended particles in aquatic systems can reveal abundances, size spectra, and biomass distributions of planktonic organisms and non-living particles. Modern imaging systems are capable of recording the contents of defined volumes of water at high rates. In response to the need to analyze large image datasets, image analysis software and hardware are emerging as powerful tools for identifying the contents of images. Morphology combined with intrinsic image features can be used to identify phytoplankton and zooplankton organisms to genus in many cases. Moreover, many harmful algal species can be tentatively identified by morphology, providing potential sentinel early-warning systems for harmful blooms in coastal waters. Systems could be imagined that would alert experts to the presence of unknown biodiversity, indicative of new or invasive species. Size spectra of non-living particles and marine snow can be used to calculate vertical flux of material in the oceans. Many towed, moored, and drifting imaging systems have been developed in recent years for these purposes. These sensor systems are relatively complex compared to many physical and chemical sensors. They have high power requirements for illumination light sources, optical detectors, and computation, and require high bandwidth and/or data storage for the digital images themselves. High-powered image analysis and classification algorithms are needed to convert the high volume of digital image data to significant knowledge about the distributions and size spectra of the particles/organisms. We believe this technology will be important for monitoring ocean health in the future, and significant development effort is needed to make these systems more practical and robust for the coming ocean observing systems. This has been the focus of a recently-formed SCOR (Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research) Working Group (WG 130). This white paper will describe the state-of-the-art and indicate best avenues for rapid, efficient development of the technology with specific application for ocean observing.

1Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science, 180 McKown Point Road 04575 West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 04538 USA
2Louisiana State University, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, 2179 Energy, Coast & Environment Building, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 USA
3Computer Vision Laboratory, Computer Science Department, University of Massachusetts, 140 Governors Drive, Amherst, MA 01003 USA
4Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Biology Department, MS33, Woods Hole, MA 02453 USA
5University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 706 South Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, MA 02744 USA
6Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC (University of California) San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093 USA
7Centre for Robotics & Neural Systems, University of Plymouth, A311 Portland Square, Plymouth PL4 8AA Devon United Kingdom
8Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149 USA
9Instituto Oceanografico, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Praca do Oceanografico 191, 05508-120 Sao Paulo, Brasil
10AZTI - Tecnalia / Marine Research Division, Herrera kaia portualdea z/g_20110 Pasaia (Gipuzkoa)_Spain

Correspondence should be addressed to E-mail: msieracki@bigelow.org

This paper shall be cited as:

Sieracki, M. & Co-Authors (2010). "Optical Plankton Imaging and Analysis Systems for Ocean Observation" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 2), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.81

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