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SeeCucumbers: using deep learning and drone imagery to detect sea cucumbers on coral reef flats

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journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2021, 23:47 by JYQ Li, S Duce, KE Joyce, Wei Xiang
Sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea or holothurians) are a valuable fishery and are also crucial nutrient recyclers, bioturbation agents, and hosts for many biotic associates. Their ecological impacts could be substantial given their high abundance in some reef locations and thus monitoring their populations and spatial distribution is of research interest. Traditional in situ surveys are laborious and only cover small areas but drones offer an opportunity to scale observations more broadly, especially if the holothurians can be automatically detected in drone imagery using deep learning algorithms. We adapted the object detection algorithm YOLOv3 to detect holothurians from drone imagery at Hideaway Bay, Queensland, Australia. We successfully detected 11,462 of 12,956 individuals over 2.7 ha with an average density of 0.5 individual/m . We tested a range of hyperparameters to determine the optimal detector performance and achieved 0.855 mAP, 0.82 precision, 0.83 recall, and 0.82 F1 score. We found as few as ten labelled drone images was sufficient to train an acceptable detection model (0.799 mAP). Our results illustrate the potential of using small, affordable drones with direct implementation of open-source object detection models to survey holothurians and other shallow water sessile species. 2


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