Virtual Reef Diver citizen science project

Coral reefs are dynamic and have evolved to naturally regenerate after extreme weather events such as cyclones. However, added stresses related to climate change (e.g. above average sea surface temperatures and coral bleaching), land-based pollution and outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), are making reef recovery particularly challenging in many areas along the Great Barrier Reef.

The sheer size of the environment (spanning 348,000 km2, with over 2,900 coral reefs) presents one of the greatest challenges when it comes to monitoring its health, so the more eyes we have on the reef, the more we can learn about its condition.

Virtual Reef Diver allows images taken by visiting divers and snorkelers (both professional and recreational) to be displayed within a digital map. Once these images are available online, everyday citizens can sign up to classify hard coral in the images. You can take part in this project by classifying images on Virtual Reef Diver now.

These observations from citizens are combined with professional monitoring data and used to create better predictive maps of coral cover across the Great Barrier Reef. Managers can then use this information to understand whether coral is increasing or decreasing is in specific areas and help inform decisions relating to the longevity of the Great Barrier Reef. You can view some of the images being classified in Virtual Reef Diver via the Explore the Reef feature.

Chief Investigators