Coral reefs are home to as many as a quarter of all ocean species. But most have never been surveyed. Now, as climate change increases pressure on reefs, it’s time to solve the mysteries surrounding these rainforests of the sea.

Coral reef

Eric Hochberg is the principal investigator of the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory.

Hochberg: “This is a project to survey a lot of reefs across the Pacific Ocean from an airplane at 28,000 feet where we can see the whole reef at once.”

Hochberg will use PRISM—a camera developed by NASA’S Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Short for “Portable Remote Imaging SpectroMeter,” PRISM scans an entire reef as the plane flies five miles overhead.

Hochberg says most cameras record three colors that are then combined to create the full spectrum. But Prism records more than 200 colors, allowing scientists to separate the coral images from distortions caused by the water and atmosphere.

Colorful images from 28,000 feet offer new insights on coral reef changes. Click To Tweet

Researchers hope to learn how reefs respond to changes in water temperature, wave movement, and pollution.

Hochberg: “That helps us build the model to hopefully better understand how reefs will respond in the future.”

Knowledge is power, so the more we know about coral reefs, the better we can protect them.

Reporting credit: Justin Bull/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Coral reefs photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Earth Science Airborne Program’s COral Reef Airborne Laboratory
NASA/JPL PRISM website
The Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) Coastal Ocean Sensor Report

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