Dive in: Embark on a virtual exploration of the world’s coral reefs

• September 6, 2013
coral reefs

Coral reefs in Egypt, Creative Commons: Ronald Eliassen Hole, 2009

Scientists are taking on a monumental task: to create a Global Reef Record that provides high quality and comprehensive surveys of coral reefs around the world, and make it available online to citizens and scientists alike.

As climate change threatens the survival of the world’s coral reefs, scientists at the Catlin Seaview Survey are quickly working to create a baseline record of the world’s reefs before it’s too late.

Using Google’s street view technology underwater, they’re surveying the world’s coral reefs in high-resolution 360-degree panoramic views. When it is complete, The Global Reef Record will allow scientists to monitor the changing state of the reefs and better inform action and policy to protect them.

The best part? The researchers will make their Record available online, bringing the beauty of the reefs to anyone with a computer.

They hope that by making the coral reefs accessible to the world, they can not only raise awareness of the growing threats facing the reefs, but also engage online visitors as ‘citizen scientists.’ In the words of Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, lead scientist of the Catlin Seaview Survey,

We are planning to involve online citizens to help us count a wide range of organisms that appear in the high-definition images. Anyone with access to a computer will be able to help us log creatures such as stingrays, turtles, fish, and Crown of Thorns starfish. Only 1% of humanity has ever dived on a coral reef, and by making the experience easily accessible the survey will help alert millions of people around the world to the plight of the reefs.

According to the Global Change Institute, more than half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral has been lost in the last 30 years, and it’s likely that another half of remaining coral will be gone by 2022. This staggering decline makes cataloguing the remaining flora and fauna more important than ever. The Catlin Seaview Survey will provide the first detailed view of the deeper layers of the reef and allow a global audience of web users to join them.

Until the entire Global Reef Record becomes available, check out the ‘virtual dives’ made possible by the comprehensive work of the Catlin Seaview Survey.

Dive in: Swim in the reefs of the Caribbean, the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, and the Galapagos today!

Love what you see of the reefs, and think it should be protected for future generations? Help Greenpeace protect the Great Barrier Reef from the Australian coal industry, whose plans for massive coal exports put the Reef right in their path of devastation.

Sign the petition>>

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About the Author

Emily is a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland with a B.A. in psychology. While in school, she spent her time leading environmental and social justice campaigns. She recently worked for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as a grassroots organizer for a moratorium on natural gas fracking in Maryland.

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