Update 2: Week 1 of Fieldwork in the Dominican Republic

Over the past week and a half I traveled to the Dominican Republic with Dr. Steven Schill, lead scientist of the Caribbean division of The Nature Conservancy, and Dr. George Raber  a volunteer with the Nature Conservancy and a geography professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The first several days of fieldwork were focused on collecting coral reef data.  For this project we used drones to collect high-resolution imagery of coral reefs in several areas in the south of the country. I learned how to set up and fly drone missions and how to adjust the settings to capture the best images. We used the drones to collect many overlapping images of the study areas and then used a program called Pix 4D to stitch the images together. The final product is a large image called an orthomosiac or photomap.

In addition to using the aerial drones to capture coral cover data, we used a boat drone to capture high resolution data of smaller areas of coral. The boat drone floats on the surface of the water and collects images from two cameras simultaneously shooting at the same time underwater. These images provide very fine resolution data of coral that can be used for coral reef management. If the same areas are photographed over several years, these images can be used to measure coral growth and changes in coral structure.

During this trip, we also met with individuals from local non-profits and other agencies working on coral restoration. The collaborations between organizations allows for the sharing of techniques, data, and knowledge of the local area.

Below is a picture of me flying a drone to capture images of a coral reef off of Isla Catalina, an island off of the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.


In my next blog post I will discuss the second week of fieldwork and final research directions for the summer.