Using structure-from-motion and 3D analysis to visualize habitat complexity and dynamics of glass sponge reefs in British Columbia

Glass sponges build their skeletons out of silicon dioxide (i.e. glass). While these animals are found all over the world in very deep water, they only exist shallower than 50 m in a few places in the world. In very rare cases, new sponges grow on top of existing, dead sponges and form reefs in a similar manner to coral reefs. As with coral reefs, the structure formed by the reefs is ecologically important because it provides complex habitat and shelter for other animals. However, the structure of the reef can be challenging to measure using the two-dimensional methods that ecologists traditionally use. We propose to measure the glass sponge reefs using technology that captures 3-D shapes using photos or videos. This same technology is used to make 3-D animations and virtual reality, and can allow researchers to visualize information in ways never before possible.

Ian Lochhead
Faculty Supervisor: 
Nick Hedley
British Columbia
Partner University: