NASA in the Great Barrier Reef

Written by on September 21, 2016 in Coral Reefs, Technology

NASA recently began a new mission in the Great Barrier Reef to “transform our understanding of Earth’s valuable and ecologically sensitive coral reefs.”

Bleached and stressed coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/BIOS.

Bleached and stressed coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/BIOS.

The COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) mission is a three-year mission that combines aerial surveys with in-water sampling.

“CORAL offers the clearest, most extensive picture to date of the condition of a large portion of the world’s coral reefs,” CORAL Principal Investigator Eric Hochberg of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), said in a news release. “This new understanding of reef condition and function will allow scientists to better predict the future of this global ecosystem and provide policymakers with better information for decisions regarding resource management.”

CORAL will collect data and generate a uniform data set for a large sample of reefs across the Pacific. The data will be used to provide new models for analyzing reef ecosystems, allowing scientists to search for trends between reef conditions and natural and human-produced factors.

“Virtually all reef assessments to date rely on in-water survey techniques that are laborious, expensive and limited in spatial scope,” Hochberg said. “Very little of Earth’s reef area has been directly surveyed. More importantly, there are no existing models that quantitatively relate reef conditions to the full range of biological and environmental factors that affect them — models that can help scientists better understand how coral reefs will respond to expected environmental changes. CORAL addresses an urgent need in the face of ongoing worldwide reef degradation, and also serves as a pathfinder for a future satellite mission to globally survey the world’s reefs.”

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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