Wide Field-of-View Fluorescence Imaging of Coral Reefs
Coral reefs globally are declining rapidly because of both local and global stressors. Improved monitoring tools are urgently needed to understand the changes that are occurring at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. Coral fluorescence imaging tools have the potential to improve both ecological and physiological assessments. Although fluorescence imaging is regularly used for laboratory studies of corals, it has not yet been used for large-scale in situ assessments. Current obstacles to effective underwater fluorescence surveying include limited field-of-view due to low camera sensitivity, the need for nighttime deployment because of ambient light contamination, and the need for custom multispectral narrow band imaging systems to separate the signal into meaningful fluorescence bands. Here we describe the Fluorescence Imaging System (FluorIS), based on a consumer camera modified for greatly increased sensitivity to chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and we show high spectral correlation between acquired images and in situ spectrometer measurements. This system greatly facilitates underwater wide field-of-view fluorophore surveying during both night and day, and potentially enables improvements in semi-automated segmentation of live corals in coral reef photographs and juvenile coral surveys.