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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Photographically Mapping Coral Reefs



TIME published an interesting story recently about a fancy underwater camera called the SVII which is being used to photograph hundreds of coral reefs across the globe. The purpose of the camera is to create a 360-panorama—much like a Google Maps street view does when you zoom in to check an address. It's a neat process being carried out by the Catlin Seaview Survey—an Australian scientific expedition that is assessing threatened coral reefs across the globe. Reefs are home to more than 25% of life in the oceans, and they're very much in danger due to a number of factors (which mostly fall on the shoulders of humankind). For instance, scientists estimate that the Caribbean sea has lost more than 80% of its coral reefs in the last half century. So these scientists are first trying to get a handle on where reefs currently stand in order to better protect their future, and to do that they're using the $20,000 SVII camera. The camera uses three lenses mounted in the head of a propeller sled, and every three seconds they take pictures to the sides and below the sled in order to document tiny details within the coral itself—including the flora and fauna that coexist with it. The story is fascinating, as is the technology. Read all about it at http://time.com/48001/the-last-coral-reefs/  and then get in depth with the camera technology at the expedition's web site, http://catlinseaviewsurvey.com/science/technology.  

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