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SPI-Scan® Surveyor

SPI-Scan Surveyor

Following the successful domestic and international sales and use of our previous SPI-Scan models we are developing the third generation system, SPI-Scan Surveyor.  The system packs higher resolution, more user-configurable options, lighting, improved burrowing systems, and more imaging capabilities into the same, field-tested physical dimensions.  We have ceased producing our older systems as we gear up to deliver on existing orders for the new system. Please contact us if you would like to be notified when we accept orders for the new system.


What is SPI-Scan?

A revolutionary (it revolves) sediment profile imaging (SPI) device used to explore the sediment-water interface and monitor organism-sediment interactions. It is compact enough to manually deploy from small vessels (5 m) in shallow marine, freshwater, and estuarine soft-bottom areas to encourage efficient studies in shallow waters (<30m) where "traditional" SPI systems are too heavy or costly.


What does SPI-Scan do?

SPI-Scan returns vertical profiles of the sediment-water interface in soft-bottom areas. Sample SPI-Scan images are available below. Because the imager is scanning the wall of the hole it burrows, images can be obtained regardless of water visibility or light levels. SP images are 210 x 280 mm at a user-selectable resolution of 75-600 dpi requiring 17-120 sec per scan. Time-lapse mode (tSPI) allows unattended bioturbation scans at any interval >1 min. If a GPS stream is available to the computer, all images will be stamped with date, time, and position information. Geotiff tags allow the images to be automatically opened as raster images in proper positions in GIS.


Common SPI parameters include

  • Sediment texture estimates
  • Apparent redox depth & gas vessicles
  • Small-scale seabed topography
  • Sedimentation & bioturbation
  • Spill residues & surface deposits


During deployment, a live video feed with laser-scaling marks is also available to the operator. This feed can also be captured to file during the sampling process (water visibility permitting).

What does SPI-Scan cost?

Operational cost savings - Owners have found that the small form-factor of SPI-scan pays for itself within a few months of commercial deployment in operational cost savings alone. "Traditional" SPI systems require heavy lifting equipment available only on large vessels. SPI-Scan allows you to use vessels of opportunity instead of special research craft.

Over 100 deployments can usually be conducted in a single field day. Site reconnaissance and coarse GIS habitat mapping can provide key information to efficiently plan your seafloor sampling effort and reduce the frequency of alternative, expensive, routine monitoring visits. SP image analysis can reduce or eliminate costly and repetitive sediment texture analyses and provide an archival record of many in situ sediment parameters.


Consultant cost savings - We invented SPI-Scan specifically to make SPI an affordable tool for environmental monitoring and consent studies. Many aquaculture, port, and coastal development programmes benefit from other SPI techniques, but the cost of renting, buying, and deploying "traditional" SPI equipment usually restricts its use to government programmes.

We believe that if environmental monitoring is effective and efficient it will be done more widely and more often. As consultants ourselves we know that environmental consulting costs burden responsible clients. The SPI-Scan system is inexpensive enough to be hired or purchased by a single user and can usually be deployed from the operator's own vessels under the supervision of only one or two field technicians.


We want market forces to reduce consulting costs. Once a consultant -anywhere in the world- has developed an understanding of the study system, the imagery can be sent to them electronically for analysis and reporting thus eliminating unproductive travel and field costs in repetitive monitoring programmes. As leaders in the field we hope that you consider Benthic Science Limited when you require consulting services! Contact us to discuss configuration and pricing options, systems typically sell for less than 1/4 of other SPI systems.



General Requirements


  • Repeated deployments of SPI-Scan is made easier when done from a vessel with a small davit or lifting block.
  • SPI-Scan software requires a Windows 2000 or XP computer system with adequate fixed storage for the imagery. We provide a pre-configured netbook with hire units and can provide one with purchased systems.
  • Position stamping requires streaming GPS input (NMEA) to one of the computer's COM ports. We can advise connection to your GPS unit or we can include an economical USB GPS antenna.
  • A source of 24VDC power is required (<3A).
  • A large-diameter shieve (pulley) is required for safe handling of the tether during light deployements. If a separate line is used for deployment a second operator can manage the tether.


SPI-Scan system components


  • SPI-Scan model II imager hardware
  • SPI-Scan model III imager hardware
  • Custom software to operate imager and make field notations
  • Surface junction box
  • Stainless steel deployment frame
  • 50 m tether and terminations with Kellem grip
  • Large diameter block for cable management
  • Consulting support services
  • Technical support services


Benthic Science Limited is the sole supplier of SPI-Scan systems. We invented it, we build them, we service them. We will provide discounts on multiple-unit orders and service packages and can usually accept institutional purchase orders.


Where have SPI-Scan systems been used?

SPI, in general, is a monitoring technique widely accepted by the scientific community and environmental impact assessment authorities in the UK and the USA. (NOTE: Publications listed and linked here does not imply endorsement by third parties.)


Typical SPI users include

  • Coastal & estuarine researchers
  • Municipality & compliance technicians
  • Port & waterway authorities
  • Aquaculture / mariculture operators
  • Spill response teams


Wilson and Vopel Figure 2 SPI-Scan deployment

Estimating the in situ distribution of acid volatile sulfides from sediment profile images.


Congratulations Peter and Kay on your work establishing AVS concentrations and colorimetric values!  AVS is very difficult to measure in the field and we applaud your efforts to make it more accessible to coastal researchers and managers.


Wilson, P.; Vopel, K. (2012) Estimating the in situ distribution of acid volatile sulfides from sediment profile images.  Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 10: 1070–1077. [.pdf, link]




Waikato Regional Council Report2010 Publication of Environment Waikato (a New Zealand Regional Council). A NIWA Report on using the Model II SPI-Scan in development of a local Benthic Habitat Quality Index for study of the benthic impacts of Aquaculture.


Giles, H. (2009). Method Development: Assessing the benthic impacts of aquaculture. Environment Waikato Technical Report 2010/03, 58 pages.and [.pdf]


Publication by Environment Waikato (a New Zealand Regional Council). An initial evaluation of the SPI-Scan Model II imager prototype for use in shellfish aquaculture biomonitoring.


Vopel, K.; Funnell, G. (2006). Wilson Bay Sediment Profile Imaging: 1. Instrument Test. Environment Waikato Technical Report 2006/09 , document 1060532, 9 pages. [.pdf]



Radio NZ homepageRadio NZ Homepage

11 March 2010 National Radio Broadcast with Dave Shiel (University of Canterbury) and John Zeldis (NIWA) discussing the Avon Heathcote Estuary and their use of our SPI-Scan system (about 3/4 way through).

Link to 4.4 Mb .mp3 file




WikipediaWikipedia article on SPI principles and rSPI approach of SPI-Scan.













NIWA ArticlePublication by New Zealand's National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd. highlighting an ongoing research programme which combines our SPI-Scan model II imagery, micro-profiles of sediment chemistry, and sediment diagensis models.


Vopel, K.; Giles, H.; Zeldis, J. (2007). Colourful seafloor. Water & Atmosphere 15(2): 22–23.

568 kb .pdf






First SPIT image

Initial rotational SPI-Scan (rSPI) concept, development, and trials in 2003, thesis chapter.

Paavo, B.L. (2007). Soft-sediment benthos of Aramoana and Blueskin Bay (Otago, New Zealand) and effects of dredge-spoil disposal. PhD thesis, University of Otago Department of Marine Science, 498 pages.

sections available upon request contact info at bethicscience dot com






Contact us if you want to be informed as soon as SPI-Scan Surveyor systems are available for purchase.



info at benthicscience dot com