Coral Reefs from Space

Seeing them from space, I mean.  That’s what I want to do. This week I was thinking about proposals for projects in countries I’ve never visited, and that sparked an idea.  Immediately I reached out to a coral scientist friend, my go-to with these queries:

Do you know a way to see a satellite view of reefs in a large area and get info about how the reefs are doing?

To clarify:  If I want to see the aerial view of surrounding waters around an island or coastline, let’s say in Dubai  and Abu Dhabi, and determine which areas were/are optimal for reefs yet are damaged or dying?  Or areas that might be susceptible to erosion and have declining reefs?  An aerial survey, yes.

I’m envisioning something like Google Earth where you can zoom in or out, get info about the corals/biodiversity below… I want to use that to help with proposals for a project. It would be so helpful to target the locations that are most likely to benefit and which have ideal conditions and communities in place for it to succeed as a long-term ecological work.  

He says:

The only thing that I am aware of that could do what you are describing would be NOAA’s Coral Watch website.  They have Google Earth maps that let you see where all of their monitoring stations are located along with data on reef health.  It is limited to places where NOAA has placed instruments and so won’t give you coverage in countries like Dubai or Abu Dhabi.  I’m not sure what you have described exists yet, although it would certainly be a very useful tool.

One of the major problems with coral reef conservation is that there doesn’t seem to be a unifying international body that collates and then summarizes and distributes all of the data from various countries.  The US has NOAA, Australia has the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), etc., but no one group organizes and displays these data on a global scale.  Best attempt is the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), but even they don’t have what you are describing in terms of web based visualization tools.  Seems like a great idea whose time has come.  The technology to do it is there, just need some group to come forward and try it.

Cool.  I sat on it for 2 days and then saw this article in the NY Times about using satellites to find looted art from WWII.

You know, seeing this article, yet another shout out to your amazing, effective, and high impact satellite work, Sarah, I wanted to see if your mapping techniques could be useful for global imaging of coral reefs the world over targeting where they are dying? (and thriving)  Maybe hone in on holes or conditions that make it clear that the area was once populous with dense coral, or maybe it has only recently been hit by disease or bleaching…Love insight from your perspective and expertise.   

As Andrew’s email says below – the time has come, the tech is there. As a rep of coral biology and cutting edge scientific research in that realm, he sees how useful it will be. Just need to make it happen.

Coral ecosystems are still enigmatic, and the people depending on them, ready to study and work with them in a more coordinated and focused way, would really benefit from the full monty. 

Reading about your work being used to save art, very close to my heart:)..  and to study the endangered corals this way,,,super inspiring and hopeful.

She says:

I’d be happy to send some refs to you – this is totally outside my remit, but I have seen some satellite work on the subject. I am 100% focused on my archaeology projects, but I do supervise students in my lab who work on diverse subjects.  Should any in future mention this to me as a project idea I will get them in touch!

The answer:  The time has come, the tech is there, just need someone to launch this global coral space mission.

 

 

 

 

 

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