See Coral Reefs Like Never Before Thanks To Gorgeous New Panoramas

Trevally: Lady Elliot Island – Great Barrier Reef

Catlin Seaview Survey

To track the effects of warming seas on coral reefs, a new survey project is launching an extensive database of panoramic underwater imagery.

Today the Catlin Seaview Survey-which recently brought us some amazing views of the Galápagos coastline-launches the first-of-its-kind database of our underwater world.

Catlin Seaview Survey began with a comprehensive study of the Great Barrier Reef in September 2012. The imagery documented the composition and health of the reef across its full range depth. That survey involved more than 100,000 360-degree panoramic images along the length of the reef-about 2,300 km.

Since then, the team has traveled to more beautiful coastlines, including Belize, Mexico, and Aruba. To take such detailed (and scientifically useful) imagery, the survey team uses a specially built panoramic underwater camera.

For this new online database, dubbed the Reef Record, the survey team is pairing the panoramic imagery with datasets from collaborators like NOAA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, World Resources Institute and the Global Change Institute. The hope is that scientists, educators, and the general public can use the record as a resource to understand and track how the changing climate and pollution are affecting coral and the marine environment.

“This could present a powerful technique for rapidly responding to stress events such as mass coral bleaching and mortality,” chief scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says in a statement. “Enabling rapid yet highly accurate techniques such as these will almost certainly improve our ability to understand and respond to the threats posed by warming seas.”

The team’s most recent excursion began last week in Bermuda, where they are at work getting footage of the deep and shallow reefs with help from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and other local partners. So far, they’ve found a small amount of coral bleaching, which confirms previous NOAA alerts. Bermuda also offers an opportunity to test out the efficacy of the SVII camera and image recognition sat measuring and detecting coral bleaching.

At 10:30 ET, you can watch the team discuss the project in a Google+ Hangout.


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