Aerial mapping of coral reef ecosystems has been consistently highlighted as a priority for research, leading to the development of many remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies. In support of ongoing monitoring and experimental work at St. Lucie Reef in Southeast Florida, the Voss Lab at FAU Harbor Branch acquired a DJI Inspire 1 aerial quadcopter for high definition imaging of freshwater discharge events in the St. Lucie Inlet and adjacent reef areas.
Recognizing the versatility of this UAV platform, we have expanded beyond freshwater tracking and completed georeferenced aerial surveys in 5 discrete habitat types: salt marsh, oyster reefs, dragline ditch restoration sites, estuary/inlets, and coral reefs. In addition to the data generation capacity of UAVs, we’ve expanded use of video and storytelling to expand the education outreach and impact of our research.
To date we have successfully completed 6 outreach videos which have been posted on YouTube and distributed through social media, ultimately generating more than 10000 online views. These videos have capture media attention and influenced passage of three bills in the 2017 Florida Congressional session designed to help improve water quality on coral reefs in South Florida. Similarly, one of these videos has been used by the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to support a proposed expansion of the sanctuary boundaries off the coast of Texas. The videos can be viewed here.