Photographing the underwater coral world for science

August 27, 2014 | Environment
Catlin Seaview Survey: photographing the underwater world | Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

The Catlin Seaview Survey will help photograph the world's coral reefs and reveal them in high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic vision.

It's an ambitious project. The world's most important reefs are slowly being threatened by human intervention. That is why scientists and Google will work together to map the underwater treasures.

In the last 30 years, the Earth lost over 40% of corals due to pollution, destructive fishing and climate change. Monitoring changes over time will help scientists, policy makers and the public at large to see and understand the issues reefs are facing.

The Catlin Seaview Survey prepares scientists to use photo cameras that capture images over an area 20 times larger than traditional underwater photography. Underwater photography will deliver critical information for improvements and coral restoration.

The technology records GPS data and automatically stitches the images together into panoramic views or 360-degree views. Rapid-fire images are taken every three seconds whilst traveling at a speed of approximately 4km/h.

Through fishing and tourism, coral reefs are worth $375 billion to the global economy each year and provide food and livelihoods for more than 500 million people around the world.

The Catlin Seaview Survey involves the University of Queensland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, The World Resources Institute, and Google.

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