AIMS rolls out ReefCloud to accelerate coral reef monitoring


Image: AIM

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has launched an open-access, cloud-based platform that allows scientists and researchers worldwide to collaborate in real time to improve coral reef monitoring and accelerate sustainable management of coral reefs.

The platform, known as ReefCloud, is backed by an artificial intelligence engine that can automatically analyze reef surveillance images before extracting and tagging relevant information, such as coral cover and reef composition. The engine has been trained using data sets collected through the AIMS long-term monitoring program, which conducts image-based surveys of 80 reefs on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef annually.

Once the information is extracted, all insights are automatically updated on the platform’s dashboard, designed by Accenture Interactive’s Fjord. The dashboard provides insight into the environmental impact on coral reefs, including environmental modeling and exposure of corals to thermal stress and current cyclones.

According to AIMs, the platform can analyze coral reef composition with an accuracy of 80-90%, and 700 times faster than traditional manual assessments that can take weeks or sometimes months.

“ReefCloud will support a transformation in the approach to coral reef monitoring leading to more timely and informed decision making on management actions to improve the long-term resilience of our coral reefs,” said AIMS research team leader and ReefCloud Director Dr. Manuel Gonzalez Rivero.

“ReefCloud is the democratization of knowledge – working together as a monitoring community and sharing our knowledge and data is much more efficient and effective.”

Rivero added that the idea behind ReefCloud is to help standardize coral reef data collection

“Last year, GCRMN (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network) released a global snapshot of the condition of coral reefs, integrating reef monitoring efforts at 12,000 coral reef sites in 73 countries,” Rivero said.

“ReefCloud can automate that process and provide up-to-date information within hours, leading to more timely and informed decisions about actions to improve the long-term sustainability of our coral reefs.”

ReefCloud is a AU$6.6 million program jointly funded by AIMS and the Department of State and Educated. It was developed by AIMS together with Palau International Coral Reef Center, Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji, the International Coral Reef Initiative, University of South Pacific, Queensland University of Technology, Marine Ecology Consulting, Maldives Marine Research Institute, CO2 Consulting and Accenture.

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