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UCF Drones Fly Over the Pacific for Science, Taking Pictures to Gauge Ocean Health

Seagrass can help scientists gauge the health of coastal ecosystems. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

University of Central Florida students will be flying drones along the Pacific Coast to gauge the health of the coastal ecosystem. UCF’s Tim Hawthorne is part of the team that’s using them to take pictures and create maps of eelgrass communities to determine the health of habitats crucial to young fish and other sea life. Many will be flown by citizen scientists.

“There’s an opportunity to engage the public. There’s an opportunity to create this imagery that can benefit science and the general public. So really for us it’s about using drones for good for the public and for advocating for science and greater discovery.”

Eelgrass acts as shelter for young fish and as a food source for turtles and other sea life. The images will be able to pinpoint areas where human interactions and pollution killing the seagrass. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration has named them an essential and protected fish habitat.

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Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.