Key Ways the Fisheries and Marine Institute Uses Their DTPod for Research
We were delighted to speak with Julia McLaughlin and Kaitlyn Charmley of The Fisheries and Marine Institute at Memorial University in Newfoundland to hear about their experience with Deep Trekker’s new DTPod. Julia and Kaitlyn are using the DTPod to conduct research for their masters degrees by building benthic maps of different habitat types throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
Julia and Kaitlyn were kind enough to share how the DTPod has allowed them to accurately collect data for their research. Read on to learn more!
Tell us about your work at the Marine Institute.
The Marine Institute is a centre within Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a focus on education and training for the ocean industries. The primary goal of our masters work is to build habitat maps of the different benthic habitat types that are present in various bays in Newfoundland and Labrador. This will be accomplished by collecting data on the physical attributes of the seafloor (substrate type, bathymetry, etc.), as well as identifying the epifauna present within our study sites. The general workflow is to find what environmental variables are linked with a species’ occurrence, and use predictive modelling to visualize where different organisms and habitats will likely be found throughout the rest of the bay.
How do you use your DTPod?
The DTPod plays a critical part in the modelling process, by allowing us to accurately collect data on species abundance and substrate type in benthic habitats. We collect bathymetric data using acoustic sonars to understand the physical shape of the seafloor, but still need an actual visual to ground-truth our findings. We deploy the camera off the side of our survey vessel and let it drift 1-2 meters off the seafloor for two minutes. We do this sampling throughout the entire survey site where acoustic data was collected, and which can consist of upwards to 50 transect sites. Thus, the camera lets us get a full representation of the different habitat systems along the benthos.
What features do you find most useful for your research?
Aside from the camera itself and the tilt functionality, we use the built-in laser scaler for measuring species in the videos we record using the DTPod’s controller. In addition, our sites range from 20m to 100m depth, so being able to adjust the LED’s brightness while the camera is in use is critical. Especially when the camera is over coralline algae, as lowering the brightness helps avoid reflectance and keeps the video crisp. We purchased the optional tether reel and case, which is necessary for keeping the cable tidy on the boat, especially when deploying at the 100m depth sites but also tells us what depth the DTPod is at.
What challenges are you trying to solve with the underwater camera? How did you do this before the DTPod?
Before the DTPod, we had a camera set up that required a battery change every hour. Unfortunately, this system was not designed with the battery accessible, which meant unscrewing and then removing the camera from its water-proof housing, introducing a greater chance for flooding as this had to be done multiple times a day. With the robot being powered through the controller, which can be charged without removing anything, there is a seamless workflow and a lower chance of damage. Additionally, our previous system was very large and heavy, we required a forklift to move the reel, so we love that the Deep Trekker comes in one pelican case.
What made the DTPod stand out to you and your team?
It was one of the few all-in-one systems that could easily be used by anyone without the need for extensive experience and could easily be brought along on expeditions.
What makes you happiest about working with the DTPod?
It’s very user-friendly. We have doubled our sampling time in the field, saving us time and money. A major bonus is that all the necessary parts (camera, controller, reel) are contained together, making it easy for transport. Finally, the camera is easy to deploy and retrieve as it is relatively light, so anyone in the field crew can use it.
The camera system has made it easier to do our fieldwork, which is especially useful for Newfoundland where the weather shortens our field season to begin with. Being able to collect more in what time we have is great!
How has your experience with the Deep Trekker customer service team been?
The customer service received so far has been quick and helpful from the beginning.
We sincerely thank Julia and Kaitlyn for their time in answering our questions. You can read more about the use of the DTPod in our 3 Ways Kana Upton and Aqua-Cage Fisheries Use Their ROV and Daily Routine Inspections with an Aquaculture Farmer.
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