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Revolutionizing Ocean Conservation through 3D Modeling

Eric Osherow, MSIM ’20, shares his sea of experience launching SeaDeep.

Have you ever wondered how civil engineers build structures in the ocean? Can you imagine the same construction practices you have seen on land being conducted 100, even 200, feet below the ocean’s waves? The answer is probably exactly what you are thinking: engineers collect data, and then they make maps. Conventional underwater maps are typically made using sonar waves. Sonar maps, at best, look like this:

Conventional underwater map
A false color three-dimensional terrain model of the seabed off Wollongong, each color representing a different depth within the 'bathymetry' surface Photo: Tim Ingleton/OEH from the NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Sonar maps are very low in detail without color, texture, and the ability to recognize individual objects like marine life, rocks, and the ground. Because of these limitations, sonar does not provide the information required for sustainable research and development of the ocean.

So, who is SeaDeep?

At SeaDeep, we recognize the problems created by conventional mapping techniques and are working towards a better future of modeling. Developing fully colored, textured, and scaled 3D models of underwater sites, we are designing a method to create a 3D visualization tool for enhanced ocean site characterization. Models created through SeaDeep are extremely high in fidelity and can provide enhancements in characterization, monitoring, and visualization of underwater sites.

SeaDeep's model of brain coral
SeaDeep's first 3D model of brain coral

Ultimately, by creating models to this scale, we can ensure a new level of information for offshore researchers and developers. Targeting the emerging offshore wind industry, we’re hopeful that our tool can create lasting impact: ensure offshore wind’s sustainable development.

SeaDeep, founded in September 2019 by a trio of graduate students in the MS in Innovation & Management program’s current cohort (Alok Chand, Eric Osherow, and Will Vinke) alongside Shishir P. Rao (a Tufts University PhD candidate studying Digital Image and Signal Processing), is inspired to ensure the conservation of the ocean. From reducing the need for harmful sonar waves to providing the visualization tools that will help prevent the ocean’s destruction, SeaDeep sees much progress to be had.

Modeling the New England Aquarium

Working with Research and Industry Partners is extremely important for SeaDeep, as our work depends upon the insights of our partners. We were recently honored to work with the New England Aquarium.

SeaDeep in front of the Giant Tank
Pictured left to right: Will Vinke, Eric Osherow, and Alok Chand (All MSIM '20)

The team at the Aquarium, including Dr. Deborah L. Bobek, Associate Vice President of Visitor Operations & Engagement (and a Tufts alumna!), and John Hanzl, Dive Safety Officer, welcomed us into their facilities to create a 3D model of their four-story Giant Ocean Tank.

The Giant Ocean Tank, a central feature of the Aquarium, is home for hundreds of animals and holds 200,000 gallons of saltwater. Mapping this famed and historic tank is exciting both to test the SeaDeep technology and to map a Caribbean coral reef right here in Boston!

Deborah and John were amazing to work with and shared their excitement for the potential future uses of SeaDeep’s technology. When we asked Deborah what she envisioned SeaDeep could do in the future, she shared that she could imagine this technology “help[ing] researchers understand what is happening to coral reefs and what is happening in the oceans.”

Showcasing SeaDeep at the Tufts Energy Conference

After our great experience with the New England Aquarium, we continued to explore the potential use of high-tech 3D modeling within the clean-energy industry at the Tufts Energy Conference. Hosted annually by the Tufts Institute of the Environment, the Tufts Energy Conference is one of the largest in the New England area, so we were humbled to present our technology as a featured company at the “Energy & Employer Showcase,” portion of the event. At the conference, SeaDeep was able to showcase our technology, network with other industry professionals, and expand our knowledge of the clean-energy industry.

Working with Advisors across Tufts School of Engineering

Working alongside all of our mentors has been integral for the development of SeaDeep so far. With their guidance, we have been able to create solutions in imaging, offshore development. We have had the good fortune to be guided by an amazing team of Tufts Faculty Advisors including:

  • Dean Karen Panetta, Ph.D. – Dean of Graduate Education for the School of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Kevin Oye – Tufts Gordon Institute’s Executive Director, Director of the MS in Innovation & Management program, and Professor of the Practice
  • Eric Hines, Ph.D. – Professor of the Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dean Karen Panetta’s expertise, alongside her Vision and Sensing Systems Laboratory, has been a pivotal source of guidance for SeaDeep’s development and refinement of our 3D modeling technology. By implementing some of Dean Panetta’s patented algorithms, SeaDeep continues to pursue innovative forms of underwater sensing and imaging. As our technology is continuously refined, so too does SeaDeep continue to understand and address the needs of the offshore wind industry.

Professor Eric Hines, Project Lead for Partnership for Offshore Wind Energy Research (POWER-US), has been a key support as SeaDeep continues to understand the broader impact of our technology on the offshore wind industry. With Professor Hines’ insights and knowledge, SeaDeep continues to refine our product to solve the real-world problems faced by civil engineers in the offshore wind industry. 

SeaDeep presenting at the Tufts Energy Conference
SeaDeep presenting at the Tufts Energy Conference

Kevin Oye, who joined Tufts Gordon Institute after decades of industry experience as both an executive and an engineer, has been a passionate advocate for our business. With his expertise in product development and corporate strategy, Kevin continues to help SeaDeep with important business decisions like focusing and refining our operating model. Kevin’s care for the nuances of SeaDeep’s business model helps bring SeaDeep forward.

Our advisors truly understand the impact of SeaDeep’s technology and our passion to ensure sustainable development for the ocean’s future. Born out of our desire to mitigate the usage of sonar technology, SeaDeep is committed to providing the data, maps, information required for sustainable, efficient, and safe development of the ocean.

We are passionate about saving the ocean. SeaDeep believes our highly efficient, detailed models and easy to implement operating procedures can fundamentally change how civil engineers perform ocean site characterization. 

Look out for SeaDeep as we ‘Sea’ deeper throughout 2020!