Aw Shucks: Scientists Use GoPro to Study Oyster Habitats
GoPro is always chomping at the bit for a good shark story. We’ve had a couple good ones over the years—from Ocean Ramsey freediving with Great Whites to Jeb Corliss and Roberta Mancino capturing the sea creatures in immersive VR. In light of Shark Week 2018 just wrapping up, we bring to you a story that features more “bite-sized” ocean friends—oysters.
Oysters are a delicacy enjoyed across the world, and their production is ever increasing in the United States. Off the Atlantic coast, farmers responsible for the salty delight employ a cage-farming strategy where oysters are grown in large, “off-bottom vertical cages” under the surface. The cages are stacked atop one another in an effort to more efficiently use space on the sea floor, whilst protecting the vulnerable mollusk from predators. According to local farmers, the cages don’t just protect the oysters, but they are proving to support other sea creatures, too. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has taken interest and is using GoPro to collect data in support of this hypothesis.
The NOAA Milford Laboratory team attached a GoPro to the oyster cage as a way to observe the way local sea life interacted with the aquaculture infrastructure. By pairing GoPro HERO3+ with a Cam Do Blink Time Lapse Controller and GoPro’s Green Water Dive Filter, the team recorded 8 minutes of video, every hour, for 12 hours. After each day of content collecting, a member of the observation team “scores” the video—recording the presence of black sea bass, cunner, Tautog and Scup in the footage.
So far, the footage has revealed early signs that fish at various stages utilize the cages—adults for courtship and young fish for shelter.
“Video from GoPro cameras provides a novel and inexpensive means of observing fish behavior in the field that will allow us to better understand how fish utilize oyster cages for food, shelter, and habitat,” said project co-lead Renee Mercaldo-Allen.
If NOAA research indicates that these vertical oyster habitats help local sea life, it is possible the practice could be expanded, meaning more oysters for our mouths … oh, and more shelter for our fish friends.
Hi-5 to the awesome NOAA research team for innovating under the sea with GoPro—Paul Clark, Mark Dixon, Erick Estela, Yuan Liu, Lisa Milke, Renee Mercaldo-Allen, Gillian Phillips, Jerry Prezioso, Dylan Redman, Julie M. Rose and Barry Smith.