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The University of Southampton
NEXUSS - Next Generation Unmanned Systems Science

Karen Boswarva


Testing the effectiveness of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles for mapping and monitoring the seabed in Marine Protected Areas

The use of autonomous robots for marine industry and scientific research is becoming increasingly popular.  Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and other remote sensing technologies have been identified as an important tool for how Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are surveyed and monitored in the future. The west coast of Scotland provides a diverse environment to test and evaluate AUVs for MPA monitoring and to develop viable strategies for their use. AUV data can provide information for developing habitat suitability models, and enable quantitative and qualitative analysis of the spatio-temporal variability in benthic communities whilst measuring the effect of anthropogenic impacts. My project is based in the Scottish Marine Robotics Facility at SAMS. It will test the suitability of AUVs to map the seabed within MPAs, identifying current survey methods, and comparing and adapting methodologies. Novel algorithmic approaches will be adapted to combine new, very high-resolution AUV acoustic bathymetric data with existing models to generate predictive habitat maps at unprecedented spatial resolutions for a range of MPA habitats. Thus enabling the development of a generic approach which is readily reproducible and defensible, and can be applied in other dynamic inshore coastal environments. Further to this, the AUV will be used to monitor mobile species and anthropogenic impacts within MPAs all of which will be combined in a multi-stakeholder platform for wide-scale distribution.


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