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Aerial Digital Marine Survey New York State Energy and Research Development Authority New York Offshore Planning Area

Case Studies

Client: New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Project Highlights: Over the course of three years, 4,320,000 images were captured resulting in the identification of over 212,655 individual targets. Using ultra-high resolution aerial imaging gives us the ability to characterize marine wildlife abundance and distribution along the marine coast of New York. All data were distributed into national databases and a public, user-friendly interface created by Normandeau to make these important data available to all stakeholders. Visit our ReMOTe site to see this data in real-time!

Services Provided:

  • Marine observation
  • Scientific expertise
  • Statistical analysis
  • Data & database management
  • Public outreach

NYSERDA determined that baseline evaluations of marine wildlife in the New York offshore planning area were needed due to increasing interest in offshore wind development. Although surveys of marine wildlife have been conducted for more than a century, the traditional survey methods were inefficient and extremely costly, resulting in significant gaps in the knowledge of the abundance and distribution of these species. To overcome these obstacles, Normandeau Associates, Inc. and its partners developed and implemented a technologically superior survey method, which provided efficient and effective surveys of marine wildlife.

Using ultra-high-resolution aerial imagery, scientists recorded the locations of marine birds, mammals, turtles, bony and cartilaginous fish, and other taxa, as well as recreational and commercial boats and other structures. The Normandeau team developed custom algorithms to identify species based on physical characteristics identifiable from aerial imagery, such as wingspan and body length.

Due to the large number of high-resolution images, data processing was paramount for project success. Normandeau’s technology group developed an efficient data processing methodology that automatically backed up critical data and imported data into databases via scripting. Once data was uploaded into Normandeau’s system, it was available for viewing and exporting via a custom-generated web portal. The data were disseminated among various public and private wildlife databases and are freely available in a summarized version at the public website:

The Normandeau team conducted twelve seasonal surveys over three years and captured over 4,320,000, images during that timeframe, which resulted in the identification of over 212,655 individual targets. Staff estimated, developed, and compared temporal variations in species populations among seasons and years. and analyzed spatial trends for each taxon by determining areas with high and low abundance. This study provided critical knowledge of marine wildlife and helped close the information gap in the NY Department of State’s Offshore Planning Area.

Associated Publications:
Chandra Goetsch, Julia Gulka, Kevin Friedland, Arliss Winship, Jeff Clerc, Andrew Gilbert, Holly Goyert, Iain Stenhouse, Kathryn Williams, Julia Willmott, Melinda Rekdahl, Howard Rosenbaum, Evan Adams. 2023. Surface and subsurface oceanographic features drive forage fish distributions and aggregations: Implications for prey availability to top predators in the US Northeast Shelf ecosystem. Ecology and Evolution. Authorea. December 21, 2022. DOI: 10.22541/au.167163077.72855489/v1 link

Jessica H. Pate, Julia R. Willmott, Christian Jones, Calusa Horn, Nicholas A. Farmer. 2023. Multiple datasets confirm range extension of the Sicklefin Devil Ray Mobula tarapacana in the western North Atlantic Ocean off the eastern United States. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. link

Farmer, N., Garrison, L., Horn, C., Miller, M., Gowan, T., Kenney, R., Vukovich, M., Robinson Willmott, J., Pate, J., Webb, D., Mullican, T., Stewart, J., Bassos-Hull, K., Jones, C., Adams, D., Kajiura, S., Waldron,
J. (2021). The Distribution of Giant Manta Rays In The Western North Atlantic Ocean Off The Eastern United States. 10.21203/ link

McGovern, S., Robinson Willmott, J., Lampman, G., Pembroke, A., Warford, S., Rehfisch, M., and Clough, S. 2017. The first large-scale offshore aerial survey using a high-resolution camera system. Book chapter in “Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts” eds, Bispo, Bernardino, Coelho and Costa. Springer Pub. ISBN 978-3-030-05519-6 ISBN 978-3-030-05520-2 (eBook)

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