The Hydrous: Producing 3D Models Underwater

The Hydrous: Producing 3D Models Underwater.

By Yasmeen Smalley.

A new kind of imaging has made its way underwater, a photographic technique called photogrammetry. While not new to 3D enthusiasts, the technique has made waves underwater due to its scientific potential in measuring coral reefs.

The Hydrous, an enterprising new non-profit organization is taking advantage of this new technology to measure endangered coral species across the world. By producing 3D models of coral specimens, scientists collaborating with The Hydrous are able to extrapolate surface area and other scientific data directly from the model, a non-destructive technique unprecedented in the marine science field.

Pocillopora Eydouxi by thehydrous on Sketchfab

The technique used to create 3D models is not inherently challenging, but it requires perfect buoyancy control, patience and intense focus. In order to capture every angle each and every angle of the subject, the photographer has to utilize a “snail pattern,” photographing the subject from top to bottom in a circular pattern. Each photograph must have significant overlap with the preceding and following photo, as any breaks in the pattern will cause gaps in the 3D model. Although difficult to master, this technique allows for beautiful renderings of gorgeous coral reefs, and makes these ocean wonders accessible to anyone with a computer.

So far The Hydrous has mapped coral reefs in Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, the Maldives, Guam and Palau. Many of these once-healthy coral reefs are now in danger of bleaching, marine debris and overfishing. By producing 3D models of endangered coral species over time, scientists will be able to better understand the complex effects of climate change on our marine ecosystems.

For more information on The Hydrous and its scientific expeditions, please visit the project’s website.