Deep sea marine invertebrates are frequently long-lived, slow growing and have limited to zero mobility. As a result of these life history characteristics they are known to reflect the changing climate of the ecosystem. They frequently have wide tolerance ranges as they are unable to rapidly move away from unfavourable conditions. For this reason, marine invertebrates are considered good indicators of long-term ecosystem health. In a changing ocean environment it is likely that marine invertebrates will provide early warning signs through reduced biodiversity, along with dramatic increases of a few species for which the changes are beneficial.
Marine invertebrates living on South Africa’s seafloor are meticulously collected, measured and photographed annually during research trawl surveys. Individual invertebrates are photographed in isolation, especially if identification thereof is uncertain, enabling identification at a later stage. Identification of each individual in each image is a laborious effort and is still required. Once the species have been identified, the data are added to a South African marine invertebrates database. Any species not previously encountered are also being added to a field guide to improve taxonomic knowledge of the region.
Teams are challenged to develop an automated image classification solution for photographs of marine invertebrate taken by researchers in South Africa. This will substantially reduce the manual image processing efforts of the team and enable them to detect any changing patterns in marine invertebrates much faster by reducing the need for human intervention in sample processing and evaluation.
Watch a SAEON team out in the field collecting data.
About South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) (http://www.saeon.ac.za/):
SAEON is a sustained, coordinated, responsive and comprehensive in situ South African Earth observation network that delivers long-term reliable data for scientific research and informs decision-making for a knowledge society and improved quality of life.