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Fieldwork and Thesis Update: Mapping eelgrass using drones with Aaron!

Over the last couple of months one of our MSc. Students, Aaron Sneep, collected drone imagery of eelgrass in Placentia Bay. Aaron also presented his thesis update to the lab this week, so this is an eelgrass double-feature extravaganza! In Aaron's talk, "Assessing the impacts of anthropogenic stressors affecting Zostera marina in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador", we learned about the wonderful world of seagrass (flowering plants that live underwater in marine environments!). Seagrasses form critical habitat in coastal waters and provide many valuable ecosystem services. For instance, seagrasses provide nursery habitat for many economically and culturally important fish, such as Atlantic cod. Seagrasses also play an important role in sequestering carbon; it is estimated that seagrasses can sequester carbon 35 times faster than tropical rainforests!

Aaron’s work seeks to provide a baseline distribution of eelgrass (Zostera marina), a species of seagrass, at several sites in Placentia Bay. He collects aerial photographs of eelgrass meadows with a drone, and uses photogrammetry software to stitch the images into an orthomosaic. He also uses a drop camera to ground-truth the meadows and will be using object-based image analysis to classify the habitat that is visible in the orthomosaics. Eelgrass has declined globally over the past few decades, typically because of human-induced stressors like eutrophication, coastal development, physical disturbance, and invasive species. Establishing a baseline distribution is critical for having an effective monitoring program to assess the status of eelgrass in Placentia Bay.

Images for two of Aaron’s sites are provided below!

A large eelgrass meadow at Great Barasway Pond, NL.

Eelgrass in Ship Harbour, NL.



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