Underwater Video Sleds: Versatile and Cost Effective Tools for Habitat Mapping

Underwater Video Sleds: Versatile and Cost Effective Tools for Habitat Mapping

Christopher N. Rooper

Underwater Video Sleds: Versatile and Cost Effective Tools for Habitat MappingThis is part of Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska
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Description

Underwater video sleds are useful to researchers through their capabilities in substrate mapping, acoustic groundtruthing, fish habitat research, reconnaissance mapping, and applications to fish stock assessment. Sleds can be designed to suit a variety of substrates and seafloor conditions. Typical camera sled designs include bottom contacting and bottom tending or sleds suspended in the water column. In general, underwater video sleds are easily modified and accessorized with lasers, lights, altimeters, tracking systems, and other electronic devices. Sled costs range from a few thousand dollars for a simple drop camera to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a state-of-the-art system. The trade-offs between design simplicity and potential data products are inevitable and result in difficult choices. Advantages of video sleds over other visual observation methods include portability, simplicity, low cost, resilience to extreme conditions, and ease of maintenance. However, video sleds can observe only small swaths of seafloor, can be difficult to track accurately, and have limited utility for examining small or detailed features. Although data are relatively easily obtained from most platforms, distilling what is observed on the screen to an accurate number in a spreadsheet is often time consuming and difficult for any underwater video technology. The importance of visualizing the objectives, data needs, statistical methods, and model application prior to choosing an underwater video sled or survey design cannot be overemphasized.

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