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Citizen data monitors coral bleaching

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Who did the research?

CoralWatch, based at the University of Queensland and funded by multiple external organisations.

What is the project about?

CoralWatch is a citizen data (‘citizen science’) initiative to monitor coral health worldwide. It is the first attempt at providing useful data on coral reef health at large scale with non-invasive tools. Scientists, school groups, dive centres and tourists can measure coral bleaching using the  Coral Health Chart – a simple plastic square – and add their data to the CoralWatch database.

Coral bleaching occurs when increased water temperatures causes coral to expel their symbiotic algae that help absorb nutrients and provide corals vibrant  colour. Rising sea temperatures due to climate change have caused unprecedented levels of coral bleaching.

Find out more - watch the CoralWatch video

What is the real-life data impact?

Since CoralWatch started in 2002, over 146,000 corals from 1,228 reefs have been surveyed across 70 countries. This data is freely available online for use in scientific analysis and for educational purposes such as school projects.

Several studies have used the CoralWatch data to track the status of coral reefs around the world. The project has also been instrumental in raising public concern on the severity of the ecosystem crisis many reefs are undergoing, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.