Virtual Reef Diver

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is one of the world’s greatest environmental treasures, but is on UNESCO’s watch list. Current monitoring methods take the experts to the reef. However, this is expensive and dangerous, and the data collected are spatially and temporally sparse. How can we increase coverage, reduce cost and increase involvement in monitoring the reef?

This project aims to create immersive/predictive visual environments to better monitor the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Critical environmental issues of interest to project partners and the broader public include the location of crown of thorns starfish, potential habitats for endangered species, water quality, changes in coral cover, impact of cyclones and the effect of management strategies and interventions.

The project will combine crowd-sourced still and video imagery with existing spatial information products and will employ advanced spatialtemporal statistical models to forecast outcomes of critical interest. The overall vision is to solicit crowd-sourced imagery taken by recreational and professional divers; to geo-locate these data relative to an existing digital map maintained by DNRM; to immerse reef health experts into this rich digital environment and to elicit information and interpretations of reef health issues. This expert “prior information” will be combined with existing data sources to build predictive spatial-temporal models to aid better management decisions and to guide future data collection.

The Virtual Reef Diver project will deliver new know-how in visualisation and spatial statistical modelling, new spatial products, a new avenue for the public to engage in monitoring the reef and enriched ways of monitoring and managing this national asset.