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AIMS rolls out ReefCloud to speed up coral reef monitoring

The platform is touted to analyse coral reef composition 700 times faster than traditional manual assessments.
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Written by Aimee Chanthadavong on
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Image: AIM

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has launched an open-access, cloud-based platform to enable scientists and researchers globally to work together in real-time to improve coral reef monitoring and accelerate the sustainable management of coral reefs.

Known as ReefCloud, the platform is underpinned by an artificial intelligence engine that can automatically analyse reef monitoring images before extracting and tagging relevant information, such as coral cover and reef composition. The engine has been trained using datasets collected through the AIMS long term monitoring program, which performs annual image-based surveys of 80 reefs on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

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

According to AIMs, the platform is able to analyse coral reef composition with 80-90% accuracy, and 700 times faster than traditional manual assessments that could take weeks or sometimes months.

"ReefCloud will support a transformation in coral reef monitoring approaches which leads to more timely and informed decision-making on management actions to improve the long-term resilience of our coral reefs," AIMS research team lead and ReefCloud director Dr Manuel Gonzalez Rivero said.

"ReefCloud is the democratisation of knowledge -- working together as a monitoring community and sharing our knowledge and data is much more efficient and effective."

Rivero added the idea behind ReefCloud is to help standardise data collection of coral reefs

"Last year, GCRMN (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network) released a global snapshot of coral reef condition which involved integrating reef monitoring efforts from 12,000 coral reef sites in 73 countries. With limited human resources it took years to painstakingly reconcile inconsistent data formats and methodologies," Rivero said.

"ReefCloud can automate that process, providing up-to-date information within hours, which leads to more timely and informed decisions on actions to improve the long-term sustainability of our coral reefs."

ReefCloud is an AU$6.6 million program, jointly funded by AIMS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trained. 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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