It may be well known that the world’s coral reefs are suffering as a consequence of human activity and climate change, but the extent and pace at which the change is occurring is relatively unknown, even to experts. Information gaps exist in part because many countries can’t or don’t track their coral reef ecosystems, and in part because of a lack of cohesion in the data that does exist. The Catlin Seaview Survey is aiming to change that with their recently released research tool, the Catlin Global Reef Record.
The goal of this extensive database is to function as a visual record of the changes occurring, through high-definition imagery that documents coral reefs globally. A custom-built camera, the Catlin Seaview SVII, was designed exclusively for this project, with the capability of creating 360 degree panoramic shots and withstanding lengthy excursions in almost any weather.
The images are captured every three seconds during a 50 minute dive, with the timing controlled by an Android tablet encased in a waterproof shell. After each dive, the images are stitched together to create the 360 degree panoramas, which are tagged with geographic and temporal data, allowing comparison of the same location across time.
The resulting images, which are available for anyone to view on the project’s site or Google + page, are not only useful to the scientific community, but are dazzling seascapes that contextualize the destruction of the world’s coral reefs.
As collaborating professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queenland says, “The Catlin Global Reef Record will, for the first time in history, make ocean change plainly visible for all to see – it’s a game changer.”