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Deep-Learning-Based Automated Tracking and Counting of Living Plankton in Natural Aquatic Environments

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posted on 2023-05-19, 20:05 authored by Zhuo Chen, Meng Du, Xu-Dan Yang, Wei Chen, Yu-Sheng Li, Chen Qian, Han-Qing Yu
Plankton are widely distributed in the aquatic environment and serve as an indicator of water quality. Monitoring the spatiotemporal variation in plankton is an efficient approach to forewarning environmental risks. However, conventional microscopy counting is time-consuming and laborious, hindering the application of plankton statistics for environmental monitoring. In this work, an automated video-oriented plankton tracking workflow (AVPTW) based on deep learning is proposed for continuous monitoring of living plankton abundance in aquatic environments. With automatic video acquisition, background calibration, detection, tracking, correction, and statistics, various types of moving zooplankton and phytoplankton were counted at a time scale. The accuracy of AVPTW was validated with conventional counting via microscopy. Since AVPTW is only sensitive to mobile plankton, the temperature- and wastewater-discharge-induced plankton population variations were monitored online, demonstrating the sensitivity of AVPTW to environmental changes. The robustness of AVPTW was also confirmed with natural water samples from a contaminated river and an uncontaminated lake. Notably, automated workflows are essential for generating large amounts of data, which are a prerequisite for available data set construction and subsequent data mining. Furthermore, data-driven approaches based on deep learning pave a novel way for long-term online environmental monitoring and elucidating the correlation underlying environmental indicators. This work provides a replicable paradigm to combine imaging devices with deep-learning algorithms for environmental monitoring.

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