It takes many eyes to save the reef

9th May 2019

Do you dream of saving the Great Barrier Reef? QUT researchers are tapping into the power of citizen science to develop the first crowd-sourced online interactive reef map, as part of the Virtual Reef Diver project.

The project has seen the development of a web platform, incorporating state-of-the-art software and statistical modelling, to dramatically increase and interrogate the data from the Great Barrier Reef.

Reef visitors can upload their underwater images to the website, and the public can access the website to help classify different elements in those images, such as hard coral, algae or sand.

This crowd-sourced data is translated into valuable information that can be used to make better management decisions.

“The sheer size of the reef is one of the greatest challenges because it’s difficult and expensive to monitor, which is what is needed in order to identify areas under threat,” said QUT Principal Research Fellow Dr Erin Peterson.

“Providing divers with the platform to geotag and upload their images means we combine their visuals and knowledge with our data intelligence and modelling to provide managers and scientists with up-to-date information about the state of the reef.

“It means people can provide information about reef health in easily accessible areas so that professional monitoring teams can focus on remote areas, those closed to the public or those areas important for long-term monitoring.

“This gives reef experts and people the ability to work together, with the end result being a much greater amount of useful information about the reef without the added cost.”

People can also explore virtual reef environments using phone technology and virtual reality (VR) headsets. This allows people to explore the Great Barrier Reef and contribute to its management from anywhere in the world.

“We know how important the reef is to people and we are providing everyone with a platform to help protect its uniqueness even without being there, by providing expertise on coral health and learning more about the reef so they can advocate for its protection,” Dr Peterson said.

“Through the involvement of thousands of citizen scientists, coupled with technology and data intelligence, we will be able to create statistical models across time and space to provide managers with the most up-to-date information based on every bit of data available.

“This predictive modelling will provide a critical decision support system for planning, which means we can intervene more quickly in at-risk areas and help future proof the reef,” she said.

How can we help this important work to continue?

Your gift to this vital research on QUT Giving Day will help to:

  • further develop the Virtual Reef Diver online platform as a vital and sophisticated technological tool
  • provide reef managers access to the most up-to-date data and information assets on the health of the reef
  • create resources to engage with thousands of reef visitors, and encourage them to participate
  • foster and strengthen links between citizen science, reef science and management.

QUT Giving Day donor challenge

Dr John Puttick has generously pledged to donate $2,500 when 30 donors give to this project. He has also pledged to match the first $2,500 donated to this project. Help us to meet these donor challenges to unlock Dr Puttick's gift.

Give to QUT research that will help save the Great Barrier Reef

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