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Eureka finals for citizen science reef protection project

Harnessing the power of citizen science QUT's Virtual Reef Diver project has been recognised for its innovation and impact in this year's Eureka Prizes for scientific excellence.

First published 31 July 2019

The web-based project was among one of three finalists in the category for Innovation in Citizen Science, less than 12 months after it was launched to coincide the international year of the reef.

Virtual Reef Diver has captured the imagination of the public, resulting in more than 217,900 images classified online by citizen scientists.

The project involves citizens to actively contribute to monitoring of the Great Barrier Reef by using crowd-sourced images captured by recreational and professional divers, geo-located within a digital map.

The information is then used to help scientists to better understand where in the reef hard coral is increasing or decreasing.

Project leader, QUT Associate Professor, Erin Peterson (pictured second left below) said the platform provided a unique opportunity for the public to get involved in science in a way they never could before.

QUT's reef diver team L-R: Bryce Christensen, Assoc Prof Erin Peterson, Distinguished Prof Kerrie Mengersen and Dr Julie Vercelloni.

“Using ground-breaking statistical analysis we combine the crowd sourced information with the existing monitoring and efforts to map the reef’s health and help protect Australia’s natural treasure,” Associate Professor Peterson said.

The project was developed at QUT’s Institute of Future Environments and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS).

Professor Raja Jurdak, who has just joined QUT, has also been recognised as a finalist in the awards for excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research for DiNeMo, a project to forecast risk and spread of infectious diseases.

Professor Raja Jurdak.

The real-time surveillance system allows hospitals and biosecurity agencies to predict when and where a disease outbreak is likely to occur, so they can direct resources to the right place at the right time to diagnose and treat infected people as quickly as possible.

The Australian Museum Eureka awards celebrate outstanding achievement in raising the profile of science and science engagement.

Winners of the Eureka Prizes will be announced at the award dinner on Wednesday, August 28 at Sydney Town Hall.

Virtual Reef Diver is a result of a partnership between QUT, ACEMSFrontierSI and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy. Virtual Reef Diver was the online citizen science project for 2018 National Science Week, supported by ABC Science with funding from the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy.




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