UMass Boston

The CaPE Lab


The CaPE Lab has state-of-the-art coastal mapping instrumentation ranging from vessel-based acoustic instruments specially designed to map the seafloor in very shallow waters, from ~20 m to the shore, to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones. Our research extends to benthic habitat mapping which is used to locate, quantify, and identifying species critical to the ecosystem. This work is integrated into the CMECS framework so it can be used by many organizations.

The Center for Coastal Studies has two research vessels for acoustic surveys, a customized 27’ Eastern (R/V Marindin) for shallow, nearshore work and a custom-built pontoon boat (R/V Portnoy) for extreme, shallow water surveys. The home port for both vessels is Provincetown, MA. The UMass Boston campus has a Marine Operations Program with a suite of vessels for nearshore and offshore work. With the combined fleet of vessels, investigators in the CaPE Lab have the ability to conduct research throughout southern New England and beyond. All of the vessel-based instruments in the CaPE Lab can be used with almost any boat of opportunity allowing us to do work anywhere in the world.

Recent and Ongoing Research

How does seafloor mapping work?

The seafloor is mapped primarily using acoustics, or sound. Our instruments send out extremely high frequency sound and listening for a reflection off the bottom. The time it takes to return and how loud (intensity) the echo is give us information that we can then turn into sidescan and bathymetric data.

How do drones make 3D maps from the pictures they take?

Using a photogrammetry software, Pix4D, we are able to create a 3D surface. This powerful software uses ‘structure from motion’ techniques to identify unique points in multiple images, then measure angles and distances to recreate a 3D surface. For more information on how the software works, visit

What kind of benthic invertebrates are found around Cape Cod?

There are many kinds of benthic invertebrates around Cape Cod, ranging from worms to shells. To see more, check out the Marine Invertebrate Gallery!

What is CMECS?

CMECS is a simple framework to describe natural and human influenced marine environments that combines biological, geological, chemical and physical data. This system complies with Federal Geographic Data Committee standards while remaining flexible (accepts many types of data), yet maintains powerful common language that allows data to be compared across regions.

The CaPE Lab

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125