Using data from The Global Airborne Observatory to guide coral outplanting

Photo © Global Airborne Observatory

Arizona State University's Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) is an airborne laboratory that collects high resolution (1m) coral health and habitat information to inform effective coral outplanting site selection with increased survivorship. The GAO plane flies at an altitude of 1000m and collects 427 samples of light per pixel that correspond to the chemistry of corals, generating 324 GB/hour of data. Data is processed on a cluster machine matching spectrometer information with high-precision positioning data at an accuracy of 7-10cm.

"In collaboration with TNC, we use satellites to identify reef areas for more detailed airborne mapping. With our specialized aircraft, we then generate 3D habitat and live coral cover maps that guide conservation efforts." - Greg Asner, director of the ASU Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science.

Hyperspectral imagery was collected by ASU's Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) for The Nature Conservancy in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. ASU derived high-resolution maps from this aerial data representing: bathymetry, live coral cover, fine habitat complexity, algal cover, seagrass cover, and sand cover. TNC scientists used water surface drone imagery to collect high-precision GPS data and to predict percent live coral to train the machine learning model. These maps are made available here for use by resource managers and conservation scientists.

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