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Image analysis addresses harmful algal blooms

A red tide

Press release issued: 3 April 2017

Harmful algal blooms are the rapid and uncontrolled growth of algae in either freshwater or marine environments and can cause significant harm to human health, animals, the environment and economies. A team of researchers from the Bristol Vision Institute (BVI) at the University of Bristol has been awarded a major grant by the British Council to produce monitoring and early warning systems for harmful algal blooms (HABs), also known as red tides.

HAB contaminated seafood produce toxic reactions and can be fatal.  Direct contact with HABs can bring about respiratory problems and can cause mass extermination of fish stock and marine wildlife together with the related knock-on effects within the marine and coastal ecosystem.  Dramatic and adverse effects on coastal tourism and beach-based activities result from HAB events.  There is also a significant impact on local fishing industries and desalination plants may need to halt operations.

Although some evidence links algal blooms to high water temperature, sun exposure or to high concentrations of natural and human generated nutrients, their causes and dynamics or are still not fully understood.

A research team from the University of Bristol, including Professor David Bull and Dr Paul Hill, will lead this project in collaboration with researchers at Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates.

The team's aim is to analyse satellite imagery along with other sensory data using integrated machine learning and image processing methods to characterise, predict and introduce preventive actions which could limit or completely eliminate the environmental damage.

Professor David Bull, Director of BVI, said: "This grant will enable us to apply our world-leading expertise in image analysis to solving a major environmental problem. This two-year project, funded by the British Council under its Institutional Links Programme, will enable us to further build on our existing relationship with KUSTAR and the UAE region."

Further information

The two-year British Council grant of £300,000 to produce monitoring and early warning systems for harmful algal blooms (HABs) will be led by Professor David Bull and Dr Paul Hill from the University of Bristol in collaboration with researchers at Khalifa University, UAE.

About the Bristol Vision Institute
The University of Bristol is a world leader in vision research, spanning human and animal vision, artificial vision systems, visual information processing and the creative arts. Bristol Vision Institute (BVI) was formed in 2008 on the basis of strength across disciplines, bringing together some 170 associates from engineering, computer science, biological sciences, psychology, ophthalmology, anatomy, history of art, film and television and medicine. BVI is one of the largest vision groups in Europe, and is unique worldwide in terms of its scope.

Bristol Vision Institute functions as a virtual research institute and has been highly successful in stimulating research interactions and collaborations. The reach of BVI extends across the region, with close ties to the Bristol Eye Hospital, UWE Bristol's Centre for Moving Image Research, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

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