The underwater realm is often a place of mystery – full of diverse creatures that are known to science, but rarely seen by most people. That is changing quickly as more sophisticated underwater digital cameras provide clearer views of what can be found just off our coasts. The technology is also advancing marine research by allowing scientists to capture comprehensive views of the ocean floor.
The University of Delaware's research vessel Hugh R. Sharp is making use of such technology to help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) survey scallop populations along the mid-Atlantic coast. NOAA has conducted the survey annually since 1979 by dredging specific sample areas to collect scallops and calculate population numbers. The R/V Sharp has been used for the surveys since 2008, when NOAA's own ship, the Albatross IV, was retired after 45 years of service.
The R/V Sharp is outfitted with a full range of oceanographic equipment and instrumentation, including fiber-optic wire. Researchers are using that wire with an underwater video system, called the Habitat Mapping Camera System (HabCam), to help NOAA compare scallop counts collected via traditional dredging methods to the numbers they can actually see along the ocean floor of the same sampling areas.
Find out more about this research effort and see some of the images that have been captured by the HabCam on the R/V Sharp in this video story.