Maud Quéroué is a postdoctoral research fellow on the development of intercalibration tools for aerial surveillance of marine megafauna at France Energies Marines and the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive. We interviewed her about the OWFSOMM project as part of our Institute’s 2022 activity report.
What does the OWFSOMM project involve and what is your role?
One of the project work packages – the one I’m working on – aims to standardise various methods and techniques that will be used to assess the impacts of offshore wind farms on marine megafauna, including birds, turtles, marine mammals, sharks and large fish such as tuna. As part of my post-doctorate, I am focusing on aerial surveys of this megafauna. Two methods currently exist: visual monitoring (the most used method so far) carried out by observers on an aeroplane, and digital monitoring (which uses a high-definition image or video acquisition system). Visual monitoring is carried out at an altitude that is not compatible with the safety conditions in force in wind farms. Digital monitoring will therefore be used to monitor the megafauna from a higher altitude. My job is to check the comparability of the two methods. In other words, do we obtain the same observation results when we simultaneously use a plane with observers and a plane with cameras?
How do you go about addressing this question?
We are working on three offshore wind farm sites (Fécamp, Courseulles-sur-mer and Dieppe – Le Tréport) and two prospecting sites (A04 and A05). For each site, several aerial campaigns were carried out, with two aircraft flying simultaneously to ensure both visual and digital monitoring. As digital surveys are relatively new, there was no very clear protocol on how to organise the data collected. So the first stage of the project was to agree with all the partners on the format of the data we were expecting to meet our needs, which was a challenge in itself! Once this was done, I was able to analyse data sets from visual and digital aerial surveys, estimate the abundance of individuals and their distribution over the study area for each of the methods and finally compare the results obtained. It is essential to consider the impact of this change of method on monitoring so that reliable trends can then be observed.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the digital tracking systems that will be used in offshore wind farms?
They provide precise information on the positions of individuals and the number of animals in groups, and allow us to take the time to identify species after the survey has been completed. However, image analysis is very time-consuming and each aerial campaign produces thousands of images. In this respect, visual observations are more effective because the data is directly available and can be used immediately. However, in the future, it is entirely conceivable that advances in artificial intelligence and improvements in the quality of photos will enable us to analyse images automatically, thereby saving an enormous amount of time in processing them. This is the focus of the SEMMACAPE project.
Photo credit: Maud Quéroué