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Animals observed on HURL dives

Animal Identification Guide

HURL’s deepwater animal photo-guide is a collection of over 1,500 images from video still captures, digitized 35 mm slides, and pilot camera photos. The guide serves as a taxonomic reference of all deepwater animals encountered during submersible and ROV dives over HURL’s 30 year history. The images have also been loaded onto Apple Ipads which are provided to the pilots to carry down in the submersible for observers to use during the dives.

The guide is organized according to major taxa and identifications are made following consultation with taxonomists specializing in these groups.

Comprehensive Video Database

HURL and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are the only two deepwater submergence facilities in the world that have had a long term commitment to routinely extracting biological and substrate data from their dive video archives. The justification for this effort has been based on the realization that 1) a tremendous amount of valuable data is recorded on dive video regardless of project objectives, 2) principal investigators are generally only interested in extracting data relevant to their projects, 3) if basic non-project related data is not extracted by facility staff, no one else will do it, and 4) video archives are continually expanding while videotapes, DVDs and other media do not last forever. As a result, these rare, unique data could be forgotten or lost. The downside to engaging in this activity is that it is very labor-intensive, requires highly trained personnel capable of identifying hundreds of different fish and invertebrates at a glance, and requires a well thought out database for storing the records that not only facilitates data entry but also updating due to the constant changes in the field of deepwater taxonomy. MBARI is considered to have the state-of-the-art facility and logging software with a sophisticated and networked computer system and a minimum of 3 full time video loggers. MBARI also has on staff a full time computer programmer who created their video data acquisition and database program called VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System). Within the last few years, MBARI has made this software freely available to other facilities. Unlike MBARI, HURL is publicly funded and therefore has the added requirement of a database format that can be easily provided and used by other researchers regardless of their computer skills. VARS requires a certain amount of training to operate efficiently, but offers the potential to merge HURL and MBARI databases as a first step in creating a Pacific-wide deepwater biological database. VARS also automates the process of merging video records with ancillary CTD and dive tracking data based on calibrated time codes. These advantages are the reason HURL has initiated the conversion from its own much simpler protocol to the more sophisticated VARS.

HURL’s first task in this process was to update the VARS knowledgebase module with over 1100 unique animal identifications recorded on seamounts in the Hawaiian Archipelago. The World Registry of Marine Species database (i.e., WoRMS) was selected as the taxonomic reference for this task, which was completed last year. The second task has been to retrofit HURL’s previous database records for importation into VARS. Due to the large number of existing records, only 30,000 have been imported into VARS to date. This task is ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

Biology program staff members are now annotating all new dive video in VARS, which is already revolutionizing the way we extract information from our video and make our database accessible on the web. The data fields in the database include dive numbers, tape or HD video file numbers, record numbers, identification certainty, photo number for still image grabs, full taxonomy for each species, number of each species, general and contact substrate type, vehicle activity, and comments. Automated fields include depth, temperature, oxygen, salinity, and GPS coordinates.

Our database of annotated video is not available online yet, but we hope to have that capability soon.




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