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Developing a standardized protocol for open science photogrammetry survey data using both ROVs & DPVs

Sunnyvale, California
DOI: 10.18258/66798
Grant: Ocean Sensors
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  • $3,620
  • 113%
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About This Project

A lack of standardization in ecological survey protocols for occupational and community field scientists is a global barrier to the size and quality of data sets front line researchers, conservationists, and policy makers need for impactful marine solutions. Our project will build on emerging technology in ROV/DPV photogrammetry surveys, machine learning, & the use of AI in underwater surveys, to develop open source ROV and DPV hardware specifications and data collection protocols.

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What is the context of this research?

This project is a critical step towards site specific open science biological data hosted on This data includes indicator species, coral cover, and bleaching monitoring to advance science & ocean conservation. Traditional research diving is very challenging. In order to not compromise the data, a research diver must have exceptional diving skills, species knowledge, and follow safety protocols, all while being task loaded. Developing open source standardized ROV & DPV specs, in addition to protocols for photogrammetry and real time surveys, will facilitate large open science datasets by allowing access to crowd sourcing data collection from community divers and non-divers alike.

What is the significance of this project?

The mapping of worldwide underwater ecosystems and their biodiversity is essential to advancing marine research, and facilitating ocean conservation. This project will provide additional tools to researchers on the front line of conservation, as well as a global network of students and community scientists. is providing the world with essential oceanographic data. This project seeks to add underwater mapping of the marine environment to sites on the Aqualink website.

The first real-world application of the working prototypes will be in the summer of 2024. Our team will be mapping out both coral cover, and coral species suffering from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), with a goal of learning more about the impact and spread of the disease.

What are the goals of the project?

Photogrammetry is a method of approximating a three-dimensional (3D) structure using two dimensional images. Early work in the field, including Scripps, has demonstrated a role for this emerging technology in marine research.

Goals: 1. Aligning the current open source software and hardware development of ROVs on platforms such as BlueROV2 for u/w research with Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV) development. All design specs will be available with the data to the public. 2. Aligning survey work with primary scientific diving protocols to standardize the data. For example, PISCO protocols for Kelp Forest Sampling. In situ research will compare standard indicator species surveys from research divers to DPV divers for inter-rater reliability.


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Use of digital SLR cameras and lens options are being donated by staff volunteers from nonprofits, WHALEFALL & Shark Stewards. To test camera specs, fabricated mounting hardware, and protocols the Fung Fellowship students need a DPV to mount the cameras to for the first in-water test at Friday Harbor Lab in May/June, 2024, and continued research to complete the protocols and the final working prototype design. The camera configuration will be the same for both the working ROV and DPV prototypes.

The final designs will be available as an open source project to allow any student or community scientist to mount a standardized camera configuration to any DPV or ROV they build.

Endorsed by

This project will have worldwide impact and is critically needed to help fill gaps in our knowledge of ocean environments. It also provides extraordinary opportunities for education and citizen science. Plus Vince is a true innovator, consummate professional, and a highly dedicated conservationist!

Project Timeline

The team is currently in Phase 1. The goal of Phase 1 is to design and test the protocols and an early prototype DPV. The underwater test will occur in June. Designs that pass early stage testing will be delivered to a professional robotics company for working prototype fabrication of a ROV and DPV.

Phase 2 of the project will include a 2024 deployment of the working prototypes to an in situ experiment in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean, studying SCTLD.

Mar 22, 2024

Project Launched

May 10, 2024

Fung Fellowship Team Delivers Final Design

Jun 05, 2024

Underwater Prototype Testing at Friday Harbor Lab, WA

Meet the Team

Vincent Smith
Vincent Smith
David McGuire
David McGuire


Shark Stewards, Earth Island Institute California Academy of Sciences University of California, Berkeley
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Team Bio

Meet the team from the Fung Fellowship Conservation & Innovation Design Challenge at UC

Vincent Smith

Vincent Smith is the founder of the non-profit, WHALEFALL, establishing a worldwide network of students and concerned citizens to gain experience working in ocean conservation, restoration, and exploration. He is a biodiversity and ecosystem adaptation professional with over 25 years of training, curriculum development, and on-the-ground project design experience advancing sustainability, ocean exploration, open-source networked community science, and advocacy for the health and protection of the earth's biodiversity and ecosystem balance.

David McGuire

David McGuire, marine biologist and shark advocate, is the founder of the Ocean Health and Shark Conservation non-profit Shark Stewards dedicated to saving sharks and protecting critical marine habitat. As a sailing captain, divemaster, and filmmaker, David explores the ocean on numerous sailing voyages producing media with an emphasis on sharks and ocean awareness.

Lab Notes

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  • 4Backers
  • 113%Funded
  • $3,620Total Donations
  • $905.00Average Donation
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