Google Teaming Up With Scientific Survey To Show Off Great Barrier Reef
February 23, 2012

Google Teaming Up With Scientific Survey To Show Off Great Barrier Reef

Researchers have partnered with Google in an effort to allow anyone with Internet access to take a virtual tour of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The Catlin Seaview Survey announced that it will carry out the first comprehensive study of the composition and health of reef coral to an unprecedented depth range.

The project's chief scientists, Ove Hoegh Guldberg, a professor at the University of Queensland, said scientific data gathered would help strengthen the understanding about how climate change and other environmental changes are likely to affect the Great Barrier Reef.

The scientific expedition will be a joint venture between Google, the UQ Global Change Institute, not-for-profit organization Underwater Earth, and insurance company Catlin.

“For the first time in history, we have the technology to broadcast the findings and expedition through Google," Hoegh-Guldberg said in a press release. "Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans. This project is very exciting.”

He said the survey is not just another scientific expedition, but is aimed to capture the public's imagination and engage people with science like never before.

The Catlin Seaview Survey camera will capture thousands of 360-degree underwater panoramas, which will allow Internet users to go on a virtual dive at all of the locations visited by the expedition.

Google is working on a new feature on Panoramio so that the 360-degree panorama images can be uploaded and made available to millions of Internet users.

It will eventually allow the 50,000 panoramas from the Survey to be accessible on Google Earth and Google Maps.

The Catlin Seaview Survey will include a shallow reef survey, a deep reef survey and a megafauna survey, which will provide a baseline assessment of the composition, biodiversity and wellbeing of the Reef.

The Shallow Reef Survey will use a custom-designed underwater vehicle with a 360-degree camera to generate imagery of the reef.

The Deep-Water Survey will use diving robots to explore the reef at depths of about 100 to 325 feet.  Scientists believe this region may hold secrets of whether or not the coral reefs will survive rapid climate change.

The Mega-Fauna Survey team will study the migratory behavior of tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays in repines to increasing seawater temperatures.

Richard Vevers, founder of Underwater Earth, the group handling the diving, submarine robots and all camerawork for the survey, said the camera work is a real challenge.

"Issues with water clarity, low light conditions and light distortion underwater called for a very different camera set-up to Street View," Vevers said in a press release. "The development of the camera has been carried out independently from Google using underwater photography specialists. The result is a very different panoramic camera."


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