The Fruits of Summer: Preliminary Results and What’s Next

Above image: Myself (right) and the Senior Survey Technician (left) of the Nancy Foster work to recover the drop camera during the South Carolina mapping cruise in late July.

As my internship at the Beaufort Lab is coming to a close, I would like to share a few thoughts about  what’s next for the project, and for me. My work on the project to map the deep water (greater than 20 meters in depth) regions of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary dealt with cataloging the ground validation (or ground truthing) imagery and video taken by means of a diver with an underwater camera or drop-camera set-up within the mapped habitat regions. Ground validation is the second step in the mapping process, with the first being the initial creation of a draft map, whereby the images and video of the sanctuary are used to correct or confirm the draft habitat map and contribute to its final development.

After I leave the lab, the project is going to progress to where the draft map will be produced from all of the historic and current multibeam echosounder (MBES) SoNAR  data, and then will be ground validated using the imagery that I’ve collected, organized, and geotagged, which is the process by which latitude and longitude are assigned to image or video files. The final deep water habitat map of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will then be added to the Unified Reef Habitat Map (publicly available on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission webpage and shown below), and will actively contribute to sanctuary management decisions in this management plan, and future ones.


The Unified Reef Habitat Map, showing the geomorphologic habitat classes of the sanctuary. The areas of deep water regions are represented by the solid blue color outlining the multi-colored habitat polygons.

The current project plan is for the deep water habitat map to begin development this fall or into next year, following the progression of the management plan revision process by the FKNMS Advisory Council.  After this summer, I’ve decided that a career of research is not personally fulfilling, and that I think I would like to pursue a policy-oriented career. My interests in science and the environment have grown stronger, where I have a love of field work, geographic information systems, and policy. After learning so much about the process of revising a Management Plan for the FKNMS, I’ve been intimidated but eager to become involved in the process.

To reflect on my experiences, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had this summer. I would like to specifically thank: the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Beaufort Lab for funding this project, Chris, Don, and Jenny for mentoring me this summer, Washington College for funding part of my summer expenses, and my family for their never ending support.


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