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Choosing between strategies for designing surveys: autonomous underwater vehicles


Foster, SD and Hosack, GR and Hill, NA and Barrett, NS and Lucieer, VL, Choosing between strategies for designing surveys: autonomous underwater vehicles, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 5, (3) pp. 287-297. ISSN 2041-210X (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 The Authors. Methods in Ecology and Evolution Copyright 2014 British Ecological Society

DOI: doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12156


  • Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), which collect images of marine habitats, are now an established sampling tool. The use of AUVs is becoming more widespread as they offer a non-destructive method to survey substantial spatial areas. The design of AUV surveys has historically been based on expert knowledge and AUV-specific considerations, such as reducing geolocation error. The expert knowledge encompasses intuition, previous surveying experiences and holistic knowledge of the study region.
  • We investigate the statistical aspects to AUV survey design for estimation of percentage cover of key benthic biota. We investigate the presence of spatial autocorrelation in AUV data using model-based geostatistics and examine the effect of autocorrelation on survey design by examining different design strategies – methods for placing AUV transects. The design strategies are assessed by inspecting the expected bias and the expected standard deviation of model predictions, where the model depends on the choice of design.
  • The AUV data exhibited a wide range of autocorrelation, from non-existent to substantial. The design strategies varied in their statistical performance and nearly all strategies had shortcomings. Design strategies that were consistently poor performers had (i) transects placed in parallel in a single spatial dimension and (ii) made no attempt to spread out the transects in space. The superior design types had more transect-to-transect separation (but not too much) and effectively spanned important covariates.
  • The results give guidelines to researchers designing AUV surveys for biological mapping and for monitoring. In particular, we demonstrate that any spatial design should seek spatial balance, such as would be introduced by a systematic or stratified component within a randomized design. Knowledge of the system under study should be incorporated and, if possible, should be done so in a formal manner that is objective and repeatable.
  • Item Details

    Item Type:Refereed Article
    Keywords:autocorrelation, autonomous underwater vehicles, geostatistics, GRTS, integrated nested laplace approximation, model-based design, temperate reef
    Research Division:Biological Sciences
    Research Group:Ecology
    Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
    Objective Division:Environmental Management
    Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
    Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
    UTAS Author:Hill, NA (Dr Nicole Hill)
    UTAS Author:Barrett, NS (Associate Professor Neville Barrett)
    UTAS Author:Lucieer, VL (Dr Vanessa Lucieer)
    ID Code:90587
    Year Published:2014
    Web of Science® Times Cited:20
    Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
    Deposited On:2014-04-11
    Last Modified:2017-11-01

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