A simple device made up of a digital camera and some plexiglas that could help countries in the Coral Triangle and elsewhere to better monitor their coral reef ecosystems relatively inexpensively was presented at The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this past summer in Australia by Filipino scientists and engineers. Called Teardrop, the device uses fairly standard digital imaging technology and Google Earth to give updated reef assessments. It was developed by University of the Philippines physics professor Maricor Soriano and four engineers from the University of the Philippines and the Mapua Institute of Technology: Roel John Judilla, Eusebio Capili Jr., Jaylord Jauod, and Francis James Corpuz.
Teardrop, which costs approximately $380 in materials to build, features two main components: a boat towable winged hull apparatus that houses a commercially available Canon digital camera, and a mosaicking software application that enables the user to stitch the coral reef video captured by the camera into mosaics for further analysis. The system creates a rapid reef visualization system that doesn’t require a diver or high end imaging equipment.
Teardrop enables virtually anyone with a boat to quickly monitor the status of coral reefs. Once assembled, Teardrop is lowered into the ocean with a rope and a boat begins motoring in the desired direction. The video is captured with the camera, and once on shore, uploaded to a computer for assembly. During this process, GPS data can also be collected from the image’s metadata and then embedded into Google Earth, whereby someone who would want to check a dive site such as Mayumi, Anilao in Batangas or Maribago, Lapu-Lapu, Philippines could do so by visiting Google Earth and zooming in on the images captured by Teardrop.
Soriano is hoping that the grant used to develop and test Teardrop will be extended, as she wants to capture a before and after assessment of the island nation’s reefs in the event that coral bleaching occurs during an expected El Nino in the latter part of this year. Soriano says that Teardrop has been used in 22 sites throughout the island nation, including Tawi-Tawi, Samal Island, and the Verde Island passage in Batangas to check the health of the reefs visited as well as determine if certain areas would benefit from marine protected area designations.