At the 14th edition of the Monaco Ocean Week
For the second year running, the Transnational Red Sea Center was present at the Monaco Ocean Week 2023, which took place from 20 to 24 March, organised on the initiative of the Prince Albert II of Monaco foundation. And for its second participation, it seems that the "Swiss event", as it is nicknamed, has already become a much-awaited component of the Week's programme.
This year again, some 70 distinguished guests attended the event organized by the TRSC at the Monaco Yacht Club on Monday 20th March in the presence of representatives of the Prince Albert II of Monaco foundation and H.E. Alexandre Fasel, Special representative of the Swiss Confederation for science diplomacy, and quite a substantial number of members of the Swiss Club in Monaco.
The event focused on the two scientific missions carried out in July-August and September 2022, and on some initial results. In particular, the TRSC emphasised the extremely encouraging prospects for the scalable 3D-mapping of shallow coral reefs programme with machine learning, a pioneering programme developed at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the academic institution hosting the TRSC.
This program consists in mapping entire shallow reefs using low-cost consumer electronics, therefore guaranteeing comparability over different sampling sites and dates. In particular, the program uses recent advances in machine-learning powered computer vision to construct a digital twin of large (relatively shallow) reef segments. By using deep learning, this digital twin is automatically enriched with information about coral abundance, as well as the relevant types of corals and their health. This annotated digital twin can then be used to help understand the complex interplay of coral colonies with structural attributes (bathymetry) and the broader relation to the seascape environment.
Such a scalable and reproducible quantification of the abundance and health of reefs is crucial to monitor coral reef ecosystems over time, while conventional methods are limited in their scalability and tend to require significant manual effort such as diving time, positioning of reference items, e.g. transect lines, and analysis of transects by experts.
During its first two missions in the northern Gulf of Aqaba and Djibouti, the TRSC mapped 30 sites (13 and 17) for a total of 3 km of reef by 5m wide, or 15,000 m2 mapped.