The Great Reef Census is a world-first citizen science effort to survey the Great Barrier Reef. Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef have collected over 13,000 images from across the Reef, and now, need your help to analyse them!
The Great Reef Census was designed to pilot new ways of capturing large-scale reconnaissance data from across the reef, to support research and management.
The team were blown away by the success of in-water surveys, which took place over 11 weeks in late 2020. A makeshift research flotilla made up of tourism and dive boats, superyachts, fishing vessels and even a tug boat were mobilised with a mission to capture thousands of survey images from across the Great Barrier Reef. Hundreds of people gave their time to survey 300+ sites over 140 reefs and uploaded more than 13,000 images to greatreefcensus.org.
The Great Reef Census will trial innovative ways of capturing reconnaissance data from across the Reef using citizen science. This critical data can help scientists and managers improve their ability to locate some of the most important sources of coral recovery.
Professor Peter Mumby, University of Queensland Marine Spatial Ecology Lab
Calling all citizen scientists!
Whether you’re in an office in Amsterdam or a classroom in Indonesia, you can take part in the Great Reef Census. And you don’t need to be a scientist or a marine biologist — analysing an image is easy and only takes about 5 minutes. At the end, a map will show you the reefs you’ve helped to analyse!
The super simple analysis involves logging on to greatreefcensus.org, selecting a reef image, and ‘colouring in’ key elements such as coral, rubble and sand.
This 5 minute process, helps to turn images into meaningful data for scientists, helping to drive more impactful research and conservation efforts on the Great Barrier Reef.
It’s no longer a job just for scientists and managers, it’s a job everyone and anyone can do.
Why A Census? Spanning 2,300km in length and comprising over 3,000 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most incredible natural icons, but only 5-10% is regularly surveyed. Given the immense size of the Reef, the impacts of disturbance events such as coral bleaching, extreme weather and poor water quality are often patchy, affecting some reefs more than others. As the impacts of climate change become more advanced, scientists and managers need up-to-date information on individual reefs to better target their resources. The Great Reef Census is trialling new ways of using citizen science to help understand how the system is changing year-on-year.
How will this help the Reef?
With climate change impacts increasing, the Great Barrier Reef is changing faster and at bigger spatial scales than ever before. More than ever, we need timely and widespread information to help us understand Reef health. Central to this is identifying the ‘key source reefs’ — reefs which release large numbers of larvae or ‘coral babies’ during the annual mass spawning and play an important role in helping their neighbours recover from damage.
By improving their ability to locate these sources of coral recovery, scientists and managers can better target their resources, drive more impactful projects in-water and, ultimately, advance conservation outcomes for the Reef.
Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef would like to express their appreciation to the following businesses and organisations for their immense efforts in assisting ith the Reef Census.
Aroona Luxury Boat Charters, Kiana Whitsundays, Spirit Of Freedom, Reef Magic, BELUGA, Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel, North Marine, Coral Sea Foundation, Ocean Freedom, Passions of Paradise, Divers Den, Quicksilver Dive, Pro Dive Cairns, Lady Elliot Island, Rum Runner, Keppel Dive, Adori Charters, Poseidon, Kalinda, Science Under Sail Australia, Wet n Wild, Delphi, Reef Life Survey, Ocean Safari, Ocean Rafting, Aquaquest, ABC Dive and Snorkel, Orpheus Island Research Centre, Lady Musgrave Experience
The Great Reef Census is a Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef project, delivered in partnership with the University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Prior Family Foundation and the Reef & Rainforest Research Centre.