Episode 16: Sarah Hoffmann of Biomark

The Use of Reality Capture Technology in Biological Research and Wildlife Conservation

Sarah first became involved in marine research as an undergraduate at Clemson University working on a coral transplant health study in Long Key, Florida. The warm weather and world class diving kept her in Florida for both her Master’s and Ph.D. where she attended Florida Atlantic University.


In her graduate work, Sarah was interested in the interaction between body form and function among fishes that live in different habitats (functional ecomorphology). For her Ph.D., Sarah developed a system for underwater 3D video to determine how different species of sharks use their pectoral fins to turn. Sarah’s research interests include pairing physiology and morphology to ecology to better understand how different animals interact with their environments. This level of understanding is critical to developing specific strategic action plans, especially in endangered species management. Her skills include video/image processing, 3D visualization (CT, 3D printing), kinematics analyses, necropsy, public speaking, grant writing, project design, and a variety of field techniques (boating, diving, fishing, tagging, etc.).


Sarah is primarily a field biologist at heart and seeks out as many opportunities to work in nature as possible. She was a main contact for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to necropsy stranded sharks throughout the state. As a regular volunteer for the National Marine Fisheries Service Apex Predator Tagging Program, she spent time on commercial fishing vessels along the eastern U.S. as well as the Grand Banks (250 miles off Nova Scotia, CA) tagging a variety of shark species. She also worked with the Florida Manta Project identifying a juvenile population of mantas on the east coast of Florida, and volunteered frequently with the FAU shark lab to acoustically tag and monitor an aggregation of blacktip sharks. 


Sarah is an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time outside as possible. She spent the better part of her Florida years underwater and has since switched to hiking and trail running now that she is back in Idaho. She spends her free time to exploring the Pacific Northwest wilderness with her pup. 


Question Guide for this Episode:

(0:20) Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

(2:40) Why is research into marine life biomechanics and swimming kinematics important?

(5:10) What are some of the technologies you used in your studies?

(8:00) What was your first time diving with sharks like?

(10:00) Where did you go after you finished school?

(12:00) What was your new focus when you moved out of the education sector and into industry?

(13:00) What technologies do you use on a daily basis at Biomark?

(17:47) Which UAV technologies are you using and what types of areas are you capturing with it? 

(19:50) Do you use any other types of sensors on the drones other than imagery to see into the water?

(21:13) What is a technological change you hope to see in the future?

(30:27) How deep into water can you capture imagery of animals?

(31:55) What is the capture timeline when flying for marine life imagery?


Extra Learnings:

(4:05) What is biomimetics?

(4:18) The origin of velcro 

(6:00) How Sarah used 3D technology to study shark maneuvering behaviors

(7:08) How scientists are utilizing Xromm software and radio opaque beads to see how animal bones move in 3D

(8:58) Sarah’s thoughts on how to interact with wildlife

(14:00) How do land managers study how salmon are interacting with their environment and how does that inform improvement areas for different species and life stages?

(16:15) What is the Columbia Habitat Monitoring Protocol?

(17:20) Using drones to collect real time high resolution habitat information and implement the metrics into modeling

(20:35) The benefits of including multi-spec imaging in conservation imagery work

(21:40) How drones help reduce the risk of physical danger in wildlife related work

(25:12) What is the biggest pain point in the development of new software in conservation?

(26:15) How Biomark is beginning to use machine learning to process imagery

(32:53) How to capture a turtle for tagging


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