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NASA Collaborates With Scientists To Help Gather Data On Coral Reefs

First Posted: Jun 15, 2016 09:11 AM EDT
Scenes Of The Cairns Region
An aerial view of Vlassof Cay in the Great Barrier Reef
(Photo : Mark Kolbe / Getty Images)

Despite being focused in space and studies regarding the universe, NASA is currently planning on studying something closer to home - coral reefs.

Maine News Online noted that the organization is planning on study coral reefs like they never did before, with the help of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and top international scientists on board. They were able to launch a three-year-campaign in which they will view these said reefs from 23,000 feet above - with scientists mapping corals from around the planet by using instruments mounted on aircraft.

Also called the Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL), the campaign was launched with the aim to have a bigger, wider view of coral reefs from above, and to examine them at a larger scale than ever before.

Eric Hochberg, the principal investigator of the project said that the idea is to get a new perspective from above, and to be able to study these reefs on a much larger scale, so that scientists can relate the reef conditions to the environment.

Reefs have been the first ecosystems that have been dramatically impacted by global warming, as noted by the Charlotte Observer. Over the past few decades, up to 50 percent of all the coral reefs have been degraded by a combination of factors. Even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had fallen victim of these forces. In a report by CNN earlier this year, as much as 90 percent of the Great Reef have already suffered from coral bleaching.

Julia Baum, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada shared, "This Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory can't replace scientists in the water, but it can provide a very high-level, complementary type of data."

The team will be studying reefs in Hawaii, Palau, the Mariana Islands, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef over the course of the three years in this study.

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