Successful marine management relies on understanding patterns of human use. However, obtaining data can be difficult and expensive given the widespread and variable nature of activities conducted. Remote camera systems are increasingly used to overcome cost limitations of conventional labour-intensive methods. Still, most systems face trade-offs between the spatial extent and resolution over which data are obtained, limiting their application. We trialed a novel methodology, CSIRO Ruggedized Autonomous Gigapixel System (CRAGS), for time series of high-resolution photo-mosaic (HRPM) imagery to estimate fine-scale metrics of human activity at an artificial reef located 1.3 km from shore. We compared estimates obtained using the novel system to those produced with a web camera that concurrently monitored the site. We evaluated the effect of day type (weekday/weekend) and time of day on each of the systems and compared to estimates obtained from binocular observations. In general, both systems delivered similar estimates for the number of boats observed and to those obtained by binocular counts; these results were also unaffected by the type of day (weekend vs. weekday). CRAGS was able to determine additional information about the user type and party size that was not possible with the lower resolution webcam system. However, there was an effect of time of day as CRAGS suffered from poor image quality in early morning conditions as a result of fixed camera settings. Our field study provides proof of concept of use of this new cost-effective monitoring tool for the remote collection of high-resolution large-extent data on patterns of human use at high temporal frequency.
Wood, G., Lynch, T. P., Devine, C., Keller, K., & Figueira, W. (2016). High-resolution photo-mosaic time-series imagery for monitoring human use of an artificial reef. Ecology and Evolution, 6(19), 6963-6968. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2342