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Photogrammetry And Next-gen sequencing for EcologicaL Systems


Marine fouling communities have a long history as a model group used to explore ecological processes because of their tractability and high diversity of multiple phyla. Organisms in these communities generally have rapid colonization and growth rates, and their ubiquity in the coastal zone easily lends them to answering cross-regional questions using broadly comparable, standardized methods. Because they are easy to deploy and retrieve and provide permanent records of community structure in the form of photographs, they are also ideal for long-term monitoring and detecting change. MarineGEO has successful deployed panels across the network as part of the PanAmEx project as well as in other projects, and now seeks to embed them as a core component of our annual research activities across MarineGEO observatories.

To accompany the introduction of the new Fouling Community Development protocol, we will initiate a collaborative experiment, initially developed by the TMON and Science Working Groups with input from our network partners and under the leadership of Dean Janiak and David Branson at SMS, to explore the relationship between several components of biological diversity and structural complexity through space and time using 3-D photogrammetry and eDNA.


  1. What is the relationship between diversity (obtained from photographs or eDNA) and structural complexity? Are more biodiverse communities more complex, and how does this relationship change across latitudinal gradients in species richness?
  2. Does complexity beget biodiversity, or does biodiversity drive complexity? The direction of causality can be thoroughly assessed by relating measurements of diversity and complexity after 30, 60 and 90 days as the panels develop.
  3. How does observed biodiversity on the panels align with that recovered from the eDNA sequencing? Is eDNA a viable method for characterizing diversity of these tiles into the future?

Contact Us

Please contact Dean Janiak (janiakd@si.edu) or Jon Lefcheck (lefcheckj@si.edu) for protocol questions including questions on species identifications.


Smithsonian MarineGEO commits to provide:

  • coordination in the form of participant recruitment, planning fieldwork with each participant;
  • standardized protocols and templates;
  • data management; and
  • data synthesis, and lead writing of the publications.

Each partner commits to:

  • conducting the required field work;
  • processing the samples collected;
  • submitting the data in standard format to MarineGEO; and
  • contributing to data interpretation and manuscript preparation.

MarineGEO further commits to preparing the first manuscript for peer-reviewed publication, with all co-authors, within one year of completion of fieldwork, and to making all data publicly available to participants by March of next year.