Conservation, Nature, Wildlife & Animal Rights

Google Street View Reveals Coral Reefs

The Catlin Seaview Survey has partnered with the Google Maps team to create high definition, panoramic photographs of coral reefs in the Pacific and the Caribbean to help scientists document the ecosystem.  Now Google users can see first hand what life is like in the Great Barrier Reef without ever leaving home.  Pictures of the Great Barrier Reef show sea turtles gliding through water, sea lions playing, school of fish dancing and manta rays hunting.

Google sea turtles
Google’s ocean view cameras near Heron Island show sea turtles swimming.
Image: Google

Scuba divers drove motorized scooters equipped with advanced camera equipment around the marine areas, carefully documenting the seascape.  The study is on a mission to “record the world’s coral reefs and reveal them to all in high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic vision.”

The goal of the study is to set benchmarks for people who can affect policy and science in relation to the decline of coral reefs.  According to the survey’s website, over 40% of reefs have already been lost to pollution, climate change and poor fishing practices.

The sponsor of the survey is Catlin Group Limited, a specialty insurance company.  From 2009 to 2011, Catlin Group sponsored three scientific projects in the Arctic.  As an insurance company, Catlin believes that insurers must take the lead on understanding the effects of climate change, as it is the job of insurance agents to known and understand risk.

The next phase of the project will be to build in a citizen science aspect.  With hundreds of thousands of images of coral reefs, researchers will be looking to online users to assist with counting sea life specimens.  Asking for help will help in data collection, but the project’s real goal is to increase awareness and inspire action among citizens.  Less than one percent of humans have been able to dive in a coral reef, according the leader of the project, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland.

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