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Pacific Islands CASC researchers test new remote sensing technology for monitoring coral reef bleaching events in real-time.

Monitoring coral reef bleaching events and recovery rates is critical for effective reef management – especially as bleaching events continue to occur more frequently with increasing sea surface temperatures. This past summer, Pacific Islands CASC-supported researchers at the University of Guam and the University of Miami tested an innovative remote sensing technology that can be used to create high resolution maps of coral reefs. The researchers combined data from diving expeditions with data from drone flights equipped with MiDAR (Multispectral Imaging, Detection, and Active Reflectance) technology that captured images across six coral reef sites around Guam. Because waves and water distort images, the researchers used a “fluid lensing algorithm” to generate clear underwater images down to 65 feet.  

This technology may be used to map and compare healthy and unhealthy reefs across large geographic areas, and to provide real-time data to reef managers for monitoring the severity and extent of bleaching events, and subsequent reef recovery. 

This work is supported by the Pacific Island CASC Project, “Using Cutting-Edge Technology to Assess Coral Reef Bleaching Events and Recovery Rates in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.” 

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