Deep sea biodiversity hotspots: Time series image data acquisition from challenging ecosystems with affordable open source hardware and software.

Autun Purser1, Ulrich Hoge2, Johannes Lemburg2, Frank Wenzhofer3, Simon Dreutter4, Boris Dorschel2, Yasemin Bodur4, Elena Schiller4, Jens Greinert5 and Thomas Soltwedel6, (1)Alfred-Wegener-Institute Helmholtz-Centrum for Polar and Marine Research, Germany, (2)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Bremerhaven, Germany, (3)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, HGF-MPG Group for Deep Sea Ecology and Technology, Bremerhaven, Germany, (4)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Germany, (5)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Marine Geosystems - DeepSea Monitoring, Kiel, Germany, (6)Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Center for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
Abstract:
Devices to capture time series image data from remote ecosystems are traditionally expensive, given the propensity for integrating expensive pressure and corrosion resistant materials such as titanium, with the most advanced optical solutions with propriety software requirements.

During the last three years the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI) and GEOMAR been developing cost effective imaging platforms for deployment in remote ecosystems. These are based around the use of the popular ‘maker community’ family of Raspberry Pi computers, off-the-shelf components and the use of radio transparent sapphire glass and plastic housings. The Raspbian and Python programming languages have been used to develop deployment solutions capable of taking images across a range of frequencies for deployments of hours to more than a year.

Following prototyping we have developed a ~$150 camera design for use at depths of less than ~200 m utilising a plastic housing. Additionally, we have also developed a camera design for deployment at depths of <6000 m with a sapphire glass housing (~$300 build cost). Here we present images taken with these systems from a range of remote hotspot ecosystems and poorly sampled regions of the world ocean, as well as preliminary scientific findings based on these data. Ecosystems surveyed with these platforms thus far include the deep under-ice seafloor, cold-water coral reefs, polymetallic nodule fields and the deep under-ice pelagic. By keeping the build cost of the camera systems low, scaling up the number which can be deployed for a given period becomes a financial possibility for mid-size research projects, supporting statistical approaches difficult to achieve with the majority of current time series camera deployment strategies.

This study is part of the Arctic long-term observatory FRAM, the HACON-FRINATEK project and HGF-project ARCHES.

Full build plans, 3D printer files, schematics and software are freely available from the projects Github page.