Scientists from the College of Florida, Auburn College, and the Tampa Bay Reservoir Program are utilizing synthetic intelligence expertise to establish broken seagrass beds in Tampa Bay — and to this point, they’ve found almost 24,000 scars.
That is about one scar for each 4 boats registered in Hillsboro and Pinellas counties.
Ultimate outcomes from the examine aren’t 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 establish seaweed scarring hotspots and areas the place training and consciousness could be utilized to cut back injury,” 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 School of Forestry, Fisheries and Geomatics, in addition to a Florida Sea Grant Scholar.
“Seagrass is a crucial 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 inclined 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 right down to the sediment. This leaves a really seen deep despair. The scars can then unfold by erosion and scabs, amplifying the injury. Drying happens when waves and currents widen the scar.
That is why scientists are attempting to find out not solely the dimensions of the scars but in addition the extent of the injury to the seaweed. To do that for this analysis challenge, they used machine studying and pc software program.
“The analysis reveals one other means we will use machine studying to resolve on a regular basis issues,” Tuckett stated. “Object detection could be regarded as pc imaginative and prescient, with software program being educated to establish objects — seaweed scars on this case — very similar to it’s utilized in autonomous automobiles and video surveillance.”
With out machine studying, scientists would undergo the arduous means of digitally monitoring scars—a course of that might 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 injury, based mostly 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 School of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Mr. Tuckett provides some suggestions for boaters to mitigate seaweed scarring:
• Get to know the world. Use navigational aids comparable to canal indicators and maps to keep away from shoals.
• Know when the tide will likely be excessive and low.
• Gradual the boat down and lift the propeller if you find yourself approaching shallow areas or if you find yourself unsure of the depth.
• Get to know your boat and know the drag – the space between the floor of the water and the deepest level on the boat.
• Put on polarized sun shades to cut back glare to be higher in a position to establish shallow areas and seaweed.
“Not like many complicated environmental challenges, the fan scars of Tampa Bay are inside our capacity to resolve,” stated Mr. Tuckett. “Boaters can use easy practices to assist remove seaweed scarring whereas additionally stopping injury to their boat.”
To study extra about seaweed scars, go to beseagrasssafe.com. For a complementary Florida Sea Grant video on how Sea Grant helps to observe and preserve seagrass in Florida, go to www.YouTube.com And seek for “Eyes on Seagrass: A State Citizen Science Program.” ¦