Dorset Wildlife Trust are the very first recipients of the Sea-Changers’ Innovation Fund. The Fund aims to encourage and support new ideas, solutions and projects for marine conservation in the UK. The grant will contribute £2,000 towards the Dorset 3Deep Project.
Surveying underwater is like working in a dense fog – you can only see any detail or colour if you are very close to the seabed, generally within a metre. Using specialised software, it is possible to stitch together hundreds of overlapping seabed photographs to create an otherwise impossible to see widescale “aerial” view.
The aim of this project is to apply this technique to monitor changes in fragile reef species within the Studland to Portland Special Area of Conservation (SAC), in Dorset.
Volunteer Seasearch divers, already familiar with underwater survey techniques, will use underwater photography and photogrammetry software to create scaled 3D maps of monitoring sites which can be used to detect changes in number, distribution and condition of conspicuous reef species such as ross coral (Pentapora foliacea) and pink seafans (Eunicella verrucosa). At least two sites (one for each species) will be identified that are re-locatable using natural landmark features.
The outputs will provide a unique way to illustrate seabed dynamics and the habitats within the SAC. The resultant 3D models, which will be available to view online, will provide a novel way to engage with stakeholders and the wider public.
Peter Tinsley from Dorset Wildlife Trust said “We’re really excited to win this Innovation grant – this will give us the opportunity to try out a new technique that could really change the way we see the marine environment as well as to better understand the pressures it faces. We’re really looking forward to trying it out.”
The Sea-Changers Innovation Fund was established in 2021 and the founding sponsor for the fund is MRT - a world-leading manufacturer of Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s) and marine safety equipment. Founded by the inventor of the PLB, David Marshall, MRT has been at the forefront of sea safety since 1975.
Helen Webb, Co-Founder of Sea-Changers said “We had no idea what the response to this new grant fund was going to be and we were thrilled to receive so many fantastic applications. The Dorset 3Deep project really captured the imagination of the grants panel. They felt this approach to underwater mapping would have a significant impact and fully met the innovation brief of an untested solution to conservation in the UK. “
Ryan Pettit, Director & CEO, Marine Rescue Technologies said, “The response we have received to the grant has been fantastic. Each application produced a new and exciting innovative idea. We are very much looking forward to see how The Dorset 3Deep project unfolds as well as the impact and benefit it will have on the future of marine conservation”
It is anticipated that the Innovation Fund will run again in 2022. Sea-Changers would welcome expressions of interest from other businesses who would like to be involved in the future sponsorship of the award, alongside founding sponsors , MRT.