Scientists are using artificial intelligence to see how scarring seaweed is

Seagrasses are a critical habitat and an indicator of a healthy estuary.  It stabilizes sediment, reduces coastal erosion, sequesters carbon and provides food and habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife.  Courtesy image

Seagrasses are a vital habitat and an indicator of a wholesome estuary. It stabilizes sediment, reduces coastal erosion, sequesters carbon and supplies meals and habitat for a wide range of fish and wildlife. Courtesy picture

Scientists from the College of Florida, Auburn College, and the Tampa Bay Reservoir Program are utilizing synthetic intelligence expertise to determine broken seagrass beds in Tampa Bay — and to this point, they’ve found practically 24,000 scars.

That is about one scar for each 4 boats registered in Hillsboro and Pinellas counties.

Last outcomes from the examine should not anticipated till someday in 2023, however to this point, scientists have proven widespread infestations of contaminated seaweed in Tampa Bay and Pinellas County’s east coast. Scarring was significantly heavy in decrease Tampa Bay, particularly between the Skyway Bridge and Fort De Soto, Cockroach Bay south of Ruskin and north of the Robinson Reservation in Manatee County.

“These findings are necessary as a result of they determine seaweed scarring hotspots and areas the place schooling and consciousness might be utilized to scale back harm,” stated Quinton Tuckett, analysis assistant scientist on the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Lab (TAL) in Ruskin.

Mr. Tuckett is engaged on the examine, together with Katelyn Lawson and Josh Patterson, a TAL college member and UF/IFAS Affiliate Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences within the Faculty of Forestry, Fisheries and Geomatics, in addition to a Florida Sea Grant Scholar.

“Seagrass is a vital habitat in Tampa Bay and is an indicator of a wholesome estuary. It stabilizes sediment, reduces coastal erosion, sequesters carbon, and supplies meals and habitat for a wide range of communities,” stated Sheila Scolaro, neighborhood program scientist for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. of fish and wildlife at necessary occasions throughout their lives.

However as a result of seaweed grows in shallow waters, it is usually prone to being broken by boat propellers.

When ships journey in shallow waters over seagrass meadows, the propeller, winch, and hull can penetrate stems and roots all the way down to the sediment. This leaves a really seen deep despair. The scars can then unfold by means of erosion and scabs, amplifying the harm. Drying happens when waves and currents widen the scar.

That is why scientists are attempting to find out not solely the scale of the scars but in addition the extent of the harm to the seaweed. To do that for this analysis challenge, they used machine studying and pc software program.

“The analysis reveals one other method we are able to use machine studying to resolve on a regular basis issues,” Tuckett stated. “Object detection might be regarded as pc imaginative and prescient, with software program being educated to determine objects — seaweed scars on this case — very like it’s utilized in autonomous autos and video surveillance.”

With out machine studying, scientists would undergo the arduous means of digitally monitoring scars—a course of that would take months to finish in an space as massive as Tampa Bay.

As well as, the method is automated and repeatable.

The method permits scientists to find out harm, primarily based on photos that they and different scientists will use sooner or later, stated Ms. Lawson, an Auburn panorama ecologist and doctoral graduate of the UF/IFAS Faculty of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Mr. Tuckett presents some ideas for boaters to mitigate seaweed scarring:

• Get to know the world. Use navigational aids similar to canal indicators and maps to keep away from shoals.

• Know when the tide will probably be excessive and low.

• Gradual the boat down and lift the propeller if you find yourself approaching shallow areas or if you find yourself undecided of the depth.

• Get to know your boat and know the drag – the gap between the floor of the water and the deepest level on the boat.

• Put on polarized sun shades to scale back glare to be higher in a position to determine shallow areas and seaweed.

“In contrast to many advanced environmental challenges, the fan scars of Tampa Bay are inside our skill to resolve,” stated Mr. Tuckett. “Boaters can use easy practices to assist get rid of seaweed scarring whereas additionally stopping harm to their boat.”

To be taught extra about seaweed scars, go to For a complementary Florida Sea Grant video on how Sea Grant helps to watch and preserve seagrass in Florida, go to And seek for “Eyes on Seagrass: A State Citizen Science Program.” ¦

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