3D mapping coral reefs can help protect them

Using advanced 3D mapping to find the best ways to protect coral reefs around the world.
Dr. Stuart Sandin floating over coral reef. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Stuart Sandin says being able to experience a coral reef up close makes him feel like "part of the ecosystem."

He's the Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Not everyone has the opportunity to get close to a coral reef, but using advanced 3D mapping and data-gathering techniques, Stuart and his colleagues at Scripps are helping to create detailed maps of coral reefs.

This helps them gain valuable insights to help manage and protect those reefs.     

(Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
 Coral reefs are the home to thousands of species of marine life. They're one of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems in nature.

No two coral reefs are the same, but all of them are potentially vulnerable because of factors like climate change and pollution.

Scripps launched a project called the 100 Island Challenge to build a database of incredibly detailed photomosaic models of the reefs. This large-area imaging gives the researchers a way to see small changes over time. To see some of their videos, click here

For example, in an area where a coral reef grows by only a small amount, "I'm not going to be able to see that as a casual observer."

But Stuart says, "By using image based technology we can actually see that growth."

These techniques give the researchers a way to monitor coral reefs that are in trouble as well as ones that are thriving.

"Our interest is in documenting that variability, and really finding those diamonds in the rough. Maybe there are a lot more diamonds than we could even imagine."   


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