On Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it is partnering with Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) to use their extensive high-resolution data about reefs and expand NASA’s coral mapping capabilities even further.
For quite some time, NASA has been working on a project to find solutions on how to save the corals that thrive in healthy oceans. The American space agency started the Neural Multi-Modal Observation and Training Network (NeMO-Net) project to map and track the health of the world’s coral reefs and give the best look beneath the waves that scientists have ever had. To do that, they need data, some of which has come with the help of tens of thousands of citizen scientists around the world playing the NeMO-Net game. However, it has been difficult to track coral reefs since they are hidden beneath the waves.
To change that, scientists are developing new technologies to map coral reefs from space, and for that NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley announced its partnership with KSLOF. Under the Space Act Agreement with KSLOF, NASA will gain access to data from the Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition, which is one of the largest surveys of corals ever completed.
The partnership will use the enormous dataset along with the NeMO-Net neural network and the Pleiades supercomputer at Ames, which powers NASA’s NeMO-Net. According to a press release by KSLOF, scientists will be using a “revolutionary” new remote sensing instrument, NASA’s FluidCam, which is capable of seeing beneath ocean waves without distortion. As of now coral reefs can be surveyed at the centimeter scale in three dimensions from drones and aircraft. NeMO-Net uses data extracted from this instrument to classify corals around the world.
It is being claimed that with this combination of tools and information, NeMO-Net’s maps will become more accurate, giving researchers and environmental policymakers better information about what is happening to coral reefs and how they can protect them. Coral reefs are facing the brunt of global warming and are facing the threat of extinction if solutions are not found quickly. In the past 40 years, the planet has already lost half of its coral population.