Will the Divers Help the Last Surviving Coral? #CitizenScience #science @TheWCS #coral

Coral Citizen Science

Reef scientists and citizen scientist divers are teaming up to study coral around the world in hopes of finding a variety that is more resistant to the warm and acidic waters due to climate change. A post in Mashable discusses the work of Emily Darling, an associate conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) New York. Darling is crowdsourcing divers who survey the coral using special dive slates and then upload results to a spreadsheet post dive. The information they gather is based on two types of knowledge as outlined by the WCS site:

For those familiar with coral genera, the bleaching of each colony is scaled by the intensity of the bleaching in haphazardly selected fields of vision. For those who cannot identify corals, there is a simpler method that allows participation by scaling how white corals have become.

Bleached Coral

One important example outlined is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia that is in crisis.

In 2015 and 2016, the iconic reef suffered its largest die-off on record due to unusually warm waters, with an average of 67 percent of corals in one area declared dead. Scientists had hoped 2017 would offer the Great Barrier Reef a reprieve, but a recent study found two-thirds of the corals have been impacted by coral bleaching in a 900-mile-long zone.

Not only are reefs known for their diversity of life, nitrogen and nutrients, but they also protect shorelines and contribute to multiple economies like fishing and tourism. The reefs are one of the barometers of the changes across our planet, which certainly explains the surge of projects from citizen science to art. The hope of the Wildlife Conservation Society project is to determine which corals are capable of survival and find ways to protect them further.

Due to the drastic color change that happens with bleaching, I was curious whether Color Infrared Imaging (CIR) often used in aerial photography could be applied here. Although I found images by NASA’s LandSat, as well as some reports on various remote imaging for reefs, it seems like getting the detail necessary for the surveys is best done through dives. Have you helped out with any coral projects or done special photography of shore areas? Let us know as we are happy to report on your work.

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