SXSW Panel: Saving Coral Reefs One Pixel at a Time
Hello, everyone, and welcome, I'm. Johanna Klein I'm a science, journalist, you may have read some of my work in the New York Times science, section I, write, a weekly column, called, trilobite. One. Of my favorite things that I write about is nature about. Its weird animals, the things they eat and the crazy adaptations. They've developed to survive life, on land and in the ocean a place, that humans, are really screwing up right now, I've. Even written a bit about corals, like, how they make their own light in places where there isn't much in colors, more vivid than anything you'll probably ever see in your life or also. How marine biologists. And computer. Scientists, at Scripps have, developed, technology. Powerful, enough to make 3d maps of coral reefs by, taking thousands, literally. Thousands, of pictures and stitching, them together with, computers, I, used. To not want to cover coral reef research it. Was the same sad, story over, and over again. The. Ocean is warming coral. Reefs around the world are dying because of it and there's. Nothing anyone can do about it no, that's not really fun to write about. But. If that were the case why. Am I here and, why. Are you guys here, waiting. To hear what this panel has to say, are. We all just a bunch of masochist, do we like, watching the world die I, know. That, Zachry go who's, here today with us he's not. He. Witness one of the greatest bleaching, events in history while, working on the documentary chasing, coral and. Jennifer. Smith who, is also here with us she, isn't and she's. From Scripps Institution, of Oceanography, at. UC San Diego and she's. Devoted her whole life as a scientist, to, documenting. Coral reef ecology and, human impacts on it and. I'm. Not either, it's. Kind of my job to take note of these things and if you do enough work researching, nature then eventually, if you didn't care about it before, you, start to when, you learn how amazing, it is and the fascinating adaptations. That life is created to. Survive nearly any threat. You. Also can't help but notice the resilience, of animals like corals or the resilience, of humans like Zack and Jen who, continue caring for them after all that they've seen. But, why. Are you guys here. Why. Would you be inclined, out of all the programming here at South by Southwest to. Geek out with a bunch of nerds about corals, and tech. Maybe. For, the same reason that we're here. Do. You care. Maybe.
You Have hope that, there's more out there than what you've heard in the news that there. Is some way we can stop it and maybe. You, like all of us don't. Like being restricted, and told some. Things can't, change in. The. Past couple decades as we've begun to take notice of coral reefs bleaching, around the world we've. Also discovered, that some corals aren't dying and some. Can even recover Jin, and Janet. And Zack I've. Been battling, with that. Using. Their names together have, seen it as it, turns out the, story really isn't so sad. How. Do we know this, technology. For. Mapping coral, reefs studying. Them capturing. How they change over time and the conditions. That make them live or die, that. Technology, is evolving fast. We've. Got drones 360. Cameras, underwater, microscopes. Powerful. Computers, insane. New robotics, and opportunities, to learn more than we've ever known before as long. As we continue to have people who continue, to fund it and care. For it and. This. Technology also. Makes it possible for you to make change too it, connects you it. Lets you see an otherwise invisible, world living, and changing. And one. Day it might, be easy enough for you yourself, to use of, course. None of this comes easily but. This is how far we've come and this. Is where we hope to be in the future, so. Once, again thanks, for coming and, while you're here, feel. Free to use our hashtag, coral. Tech, to. Share info, or as questions, we'll, try to answer as many as we can afterwards, there's a 10-minute Q&A, at the end of the panel and. Jen. And Zak have also, brought. Some VR. Thingies. Devices. Since. We're talking about tech let's use a proper word and, they'll, be in the in the back of the room if you're interested in checking that out afterward. So. We've got a lot to cover so let's get started. I. Think a lot of us if you're in here you probably think you know what a Korell is, they. Make pretty homes for, a lot of animals, they're, really important to the ocean they're in trouble but. What. Are they really. Jen. And your, work you've, seen corals all over, the world can, you tell us more about what, they are and how they live sure. My pleasure corals. To me are one of the most fascinating organisms. On the planet they're literally one of the most simple. Organisms. They are just a tiny little polyp, that looks something like a sea anemone that. Has a ring of tentacles. And a mouth and those. Corals. They. Can essentially, divide into 2 individuals, and those two individuals remain. Connected, together and over. Time they can continue to divide and divide, and divide there's, a little coral polyp shown, there and they, can form these massive, colonies, that could have thousands, millions, of these little polyps, connected, together they, also have, these little brown dots in them which are symbiotic, algae that live within their tissue and those, brown dots, photosynthesize. And directly. Translocate. Food. Into, the corals stomachs, which, means that they don't have to feed a whole lot externally. So it's like having a garden that lives in your stomach that's just constantly, giving you food so, they have this remarkable, capacity to, thrive in these nutrient. Poor crystal, clear waters forming, these massive, structures that. Corals probably over 500. Years old this, one is over a hundred feet tall this, is all one living organism, all created from one genetic entity, that's produced by millions, of those polyps and they, create these geologic, features that we see from space protecting. Islands, from storm net storm damage and erosion and, then, you have millions, or not millions thousands, of coral species that create these complex, landscapes, that we call coral reefs branching. Plating, mounding, species, all that create, essentially. A, landscape. We call them ecosystem, engineers, because they're building, that habitat, as they lay down this calcium, carbonate, or limestone skeleton. Underneath. That soft tissue so. They're essentially, living rocks that, provide this, amazing. Architecture. That provides home for, millions, of species. Right. And they they only make up a tenth. Of a percent of the ocean floor, so, why why, should we care about them why do you care about them yeah so, yeah if you put all the coral reefs on the planet together into, one area they would occupy an area about the size of, the country of France, yet.
They're Home to an, estimate. Of about half of all marine species so all species in the ocean. Can. Be found on coral reefs which occupy, again less than 0.1% of, the Earth's surface so there are this there, are these living. Museums. They, have were, estimated, between one and nine million, species, live, on a coral reef they're, also incredibly important. For humans for. Subsistence for, fisheries for, tourism. For, generating. Revenue. And a lot of a lot, of island nations around the world they're, also incredibly important. For protecting. Islands and coastlines from storm damage and erosion as I mentioned because they create this living barrier around islands, and. They're also of course important, just for their natural beauty and many. Of us feel very passionate, about them because. Of all these important. Ecosystem, services, that they provide, and. That can all be attributed to those little corals that are creating, these landscapes Wow. Thank, you and. Zak. You're. From Colorado which. Is landlocked and. Thousands. Of miles from any ocean in, chasing. Coral, though you're described as a coral nerd I know. You spent a lot of time as a child in Hawaii got. Your degree in evolutionary, biology, and ecology at, Boulder, and, you've worked in aquariums, ocean, and tech outreach. And. Making. Underwater webcams, let's. Key in on this weird mesh of nature, corals, and making pictures. Briefly. How. Did you develop this love for corals and how did you get involved in the documentary. My. Love for cold stems, from, just. Really, being a nature, nerd when I was a kid as a whole growing up in the Rocky Mountains, I had access to just. Lovely. Natural wonders, right the, Rocky Mountains, and creeks, and grasslands. And all of this amazing life and so I was just really into, it when I was a kid and then. Spent a great deal of time in Hawaii and it just opened this door to, the ocean which is this alien world, with, all this magnificent, life that humans. Don't get to experience that frequently, and it just kind of hooked me it was like that the one area of the world that I just felt like was really a frontier. And. Particularly for taxonomy, which is what I was really into when I was younger. And. That just kind of drove me because I was from Colorado to get involved in the aquarium world so you, can do all these wonderfully. Cool things with corals, and you can actually grow them anywhere I grew them in Boulder for five years and that just built up this knowledge base of coral. Reef ecology and, about the taxonomy behind, it all and I just really fell in love with them and I did it purely, for my own joy and then. One. Way or another I met, Jeff Orlowski through, the tech company that I had because I was diving, for their underwater cameras, and they, hired me to to, put them in the water for them so I spent a year building, customized, cameras, to take time-lapses, of coral reefs and then, that kind of spiraled out of control I was a kid that was supposed.
To Do my job that was it and. Then I ended up on this wild journey of taking, time lapses of the largest bleaching, event that's ever happened. Coral, bleaching has, been documented since the 1980s. The first major event was in 1998. And that wiped out 16%. Of the world's coral reefs since. Then we've seen three, other major global. Bleaching. Events. The worst occurring, in the last four years, Jen. Can, you tell me what causes a coral or a coral reef to bleach sure. Yes. So corals have a, very, important, relationship with those little algae that I mentioned, that live in their tissues that provide them with food the, relationship, is fairly delicate, however, when. Waters, and the oceans start warming, typically. Above, one two three four degrees above normal for. A given, reef environment, it causes. Those little algae to start producing. Compounds. That are essentially, toxic, to the corals and so they have to release. These their algal symbionts, into the water and that. Causes the corals to turn white so, the algae are the ones that have the pigmentation, that give them a kind of golden brown color that they have and, when. They release, these algae into the water the corals turn white. Which, doesn't mean that they're immediately going to die essentially. A coral can live without their semi on store, days, weeks. Depending. On the conditions, for even longer but, if temperatures. Remain high and they're, unable to recover, they. Essentially, starve, so they're living without their. Garden in their stomachs and. If. They go on for if these events go on for long enough eventually they, will suffer, a mortality. They. Can recover and they can regrow, one, of the amazing, things about corals, is their modularity, so, you can break a coral, branch into two pieces and each of those branches can continue, to regrow during, a bleaching event you can have partial. Mortality. So part of the colony like, half, of my body could die and the other half could continue to regrow, unfortunately. We have two complex. Life. Forms to do that but corals can essentially. Do that very simply. So. It's it's a combination of thermal. Warming, and the. Process, that the, interaction, between corals, and their algae that causes them to bleach, okay. Thank, you. So, now. I think we know a little bit more about, corals. Other than they're pretty and house. Animals. So. We're, here to talk about imaging, and making, pictures of them with, hi-tec. So. Let's, get into it. Can you guys tell me what an image. Captures, that raw data doesn't. Like, why do we need to document corals, in the first place. Well. We, could easily go down on a scuba dive and collect data in the field but bringing a, camera. And taking images home, with us allows us to bring a piece of the reef home, it, also provides, a permanent record, which is really, important, I mean some of the most. Some. Of the most astonishing, or, impactful, images that I've seen are, pictures, of reefs from the 70s, you know from people that were able to go out there and take old, film, photography and, take pictures of the reefs and compare that to what you see now so it really, provides an invaluable record. But. It also allows us to extract data. From those pictures once we get home allowing. Us to spend. More time covering. More area of the reef when we're actually underwater. Exactly. I think that afterwards. You have your, time underwater you can only get so much out of that you're really limited first in time and, just an energy that you're taking there when, you take that data set especially, a dataset, like what Scripps does then, the amount of information you can pull out of those photos, is so, much more than you could ever do just on the dive itself, so it's just an additive, thing that's allowing us to explore these really complex ecosystems. That, much more in depth. You. You had mentioned some, of the pictures from the 70s I know even before that I've talked to scientists, who said that you, have to to. Study, underwater. You had to carry like a light tablet. And. You. Would just take your notes on it while you were down in the water and then now, they're like plastic ones, that you can write on so that's a little better. But. Now. You, still have to do that, you. Can take photos underwater. But, we also have drones and, satellites the, resolution, is getting a lot better. Jen. You've been working as a marine biologist, since you got your PhD from, the University, of Hawaii in 2003. How. Has this tech changed. Throughout your career. From. Like how they did it initially, in the 70s, to now. Well now you're dating me. When. I first started doing underwater, science, I did actually use a slate, and a datasheet and a pencil and we didn't have cameras. Unless you wanted to fuss, around with film photography. So. We would spend, the entire die of literally counting, corals, measuring.
How Many there were. The, area of the bottom that they covered. How. Healthy things were so, essentially. And, at that time it was somewhat nice because you'd come out of the water and you'd have your data you'd, under it into your computer and you'd already have results, that you could process then. We did move on to using, film photography to start documenting reefs, because then you could spend most of your time taking. Pictures and covering a much larger area rather than trying to do math underwater, which is somewhat. Challenging. And. You. Could then do all the math when you got back home behind your computer. However, with film photography you, know it was like a little bit of shooting in the dark you'd come back and half your pictures are out of focus or, you get a camera, flood and then you lose that whole dives worth of data. So, then we, evolved. Into digital to digital, photography and it really is transformed. I mean, I remember being. Super, careful about every picture I took when it was filmed because you only had you know 30 pictures then. With the digital camera you can go in the water and take hundreds of pictures and, you don't really care if half of them are bad you sort them when you get back so. It vastly, improved, our ability to to. Image, reefs collecting. Images, and. Covering, spending, the dive you know swimming this entire room rather than counting, corals in this one little area and taking. Pictures of that entire entire. Area so it's really transformed, our ability. To scale what. We do underwater. And. Provide, this permanent, record which is invaluable. Yeah. And I've heard, also that you can get even it's, like super, SuperDuper, close-up now with, some some, new tech that's been developed, with, Jules. Jaffe, at Scripps. Basically, it's a underwater, microscope. That, can take. Pictures of things, going on in corals, down to the size of, 1/100. Of the, human. Hair the. Diameter of a human hair. So, what, kind of why would why does that matter what kind of things are corals doing down at, scale. Yeah so Jules is here with us today and he's a brilliant, engineer and a wonderful, person to work with as. A biologist, because Jules, likes to build really cool high-tech.
Things That allow you to see, organisms. Underwater, he likes to bring the, lab into the field and these. Images are showcasing some of the things that we can learn with these underwater microscopes, basically, I talked, about the coral polyp, well that's. Really where the biology, and the physiology, and the ecology is happening, we see corals at a landscape, level but, actually when you look up close those polyps are sharing, food with, one another these. Two polyps are fighting, aggressively, with, one another and so this is where, where. Growth happens, this is where mortality. Happens this is where competition happens. And prior. To having tools like these underwater microscopes, you really can't see this with your naked eye and so it really allowed us to to. See what was happening in, action, in nature underwater, without having to bring corals, back to the lab with, us. So. Moving. And. Then back out to the big ones. It. Took, two decades to, develop, ways to create time-lapse, pictures. Of corals, bleaching, so we're back to the bad stuff again sorry guys that. Seems, kind of crazy why. Is this I'll start with you. Jen and then Zak yeah. Well I, guess, dating. Myself again a lot, of some, of the older scientists, we've been collecting, in some ways what is time-lapse. Photography. Of, coral of corals, it's basically, where we would set up permanent. Locations, where we would go every year and take pictures of the exact same spot using a rig like this which is kind of like an underwater tripod, and it, would allow us to see Halla reefs changed, over time with. One-year. Increments. And. So, while, that isn't necessarily. The type of time-lapse you might think of it. Did allow us to, view things like. We. Might be able to see if the images start. But. This with. This you can imagine it's it's one time per year so there could be a bleaching event we could miss it, and this is the type of technology, that we still use actually. Often, for. Really remote locations. You might only be able to get there once per year once, every other year and so, you. Know, again even with imaging, it's all about your ability to be in the water, this. This. Time sequence, is still incredibly, powerful, for showing growth and, recovery, it, shows this massive, bleaching event in 2015, where all that branching coral turned white then. You see a. Lot of it died but, some of it's still alive the brown tips and then it starts regrowing, and by 2017. Up on the top a lot of it has Regan so this, old-school, time-lapse. Is still very important, but. The stuff that Zacks developing, is is going to help us transform, maybe the ability to to. Experience, one of these bleaching, events and other other, things I think. The the biggest limitation on, getting. To the positioning, of having. The ability to take time-lapse is you, have to remember that the underwater community, and particularly in the marine environment is, extremely, competitive so. If you put a nice, clean. Glass dome, underwater, that's fresh, space for all the, life on in the ocean to just take ahold of right away so. There's all these calcareous, organisms, or baby corals, or algae, they, want that space it's a new fresh, clean slate it's it's a competition and that, happens within the first 12 hours you. Throw a camera underwater you come back 12 hours later your images are trashed because you already have silt and all these things built up so the challenge was building. Our way to technology. In order to get ourselves to. Where we don't need human intervention, because. You can go back and we can take an image on June, 2010, June, 2011 and you're down there for 20 minutes. But if you want to do a scale. The time lapse through a bleaching event you have to keep that glass, clean, for. The full two three, four months and so that's where the, technology is just now coming up that's what ever my team from view into the blue kind of nestled, in with the chasing coral project is we, had a system, that could stay self cleaned without.
Any Human invention, for years. In the case of the film it was just a handful of months because we were so remote but, that was the biggest challenge that we had to get through in order to do time-lapse and with imagery underwater is just keeping the camera the glass clean, is the biggest struggle of all that seems so. Simple and, so rudimentary. Yet that's by, far the biggest challenge when it comes to imagery underwater on a long-term scale. And. Things probably like to take bites of your camera gear and yeah or. You get the worst thing is the way that my camera works or the way that we solve this problem is neodymium. Magnetic rings it pulls a windshield wiper around, the glass dome literally, like you clean off your windshield but, every now and then we get little conical, snails that like to make their house, inside, of the, thing. And so when it spins around my glass to a. Little. Strip of copper. On the inside and if you all, invertebrate life hates copper. So. So you did get, your domes to work and, if. You, guys have seen chasing coral, they. Work and that's great, they. Sit, down in the water for months and, Zach, gets them back, looks. At the photos in his room and they're. Out of focus. So. How. Do you show people a thing changing, that's out, of focus so you ended up having to go out there and, take. The, photos manually, yourself, tell, us more about that yeah. So this is also a really. Interesting story, of how we got really creative from the tech side of things and it was actually taking a step back from the tech that ultimately made it work best. So. I I, put. All of my cameras in the wrong place in Australia during this bleaching event so all five, of them were in the South where it didn't end up bleaching in the heavy bleaching, happened, North we, dropped everything and I went and did this by hand so sixty sites a day about six hours a day under water with, a tripod, with a camera, going down and taking these time lapses by hand originally. We had developed all these cool things I had underwater, laser beams, and markers, on the reef and I'd put the laser beams on to position myself in three-dimensional. Space and high, extensive, note-taking, and all of these weird little things that we did to try and make the time lapses work best and what, ultimately made, the time lapses, stay. In the same position was, a laminated, sheet of day one and, I would just go down and match up on side screen, what, day ones first image looked like and that's ultimately what, worked out the best for us it's. Kind of like the opposite, of what this conversations really supposed to be about yes. The tech is incredible, and and our cameras, did take amazing, time lapses of corals growing, in, a very healthy environment, but, sometimes it's the the very going, back to the basics and just you.
Know Doing your best to. You. Know not go, too big, and too broad and make yourself work too hard but just finding. The path of least resistance and, and making it work but it, also takes a great deal of time like I know most, people like I assume, that Jen couldn't go out and like live, on Lizard Island and camp out for two months it's just it's not the way that science, is positioned, right now and so it, takes a lot of logistics, to do something like that as well so it's the tech that makes our lives so much easier and then if you have the, commitment, to see, something like a bleaching event where you feel obligated to, capture it then there's kind of that sacrificial. Period where it's like put, yourself out there and just do it. Right. And Jen. Don't scientists, still marine, biologists have to have like a lot of dive training, I mean, obviously but, can you tell us about that. Yeah. So any academic, institution, or. Any any scientists, pretty much in the u.s. or and now pretty much in the world has to have a scientific. Diving. Certification which, requires, you, know above and beyond the regular basic diving, and. Advanced, diving and rescue diving and CPR. And First Aid and oxygen. Provider. Services. But, that's all in, place for a very important reason a lot of times we're working in incredibly, remote locations, as you, guys can probably imagine, working underwater where, you. Don't have you, know gravity you've, got. You're. Trying to swim around in a fluid environment there's, current, and surge and you're carrying all this heavy equipment it's. Like imagine. A bird flying, around in a really heavy windstorm, where they're trying to navigate themselves, and we're trying to put. Up, experiments. Or set set cameras up and try, to get things in focus and so it does end up being fairly. Challenging, but at the same time it's. Something you just get used to I mean for me I I'm not even I feel weird, underwater, if I don't have stuff in my hands especially a camera nowadays. And. You mentioned. Like scientific. Specifically. What's the what's the big thing about the scientific training that's different, well, one, of the main things is learning how to multitask underwater, so a lot of recreational. Divers you're there to visit an environment, and to look around and explore but, when you're doing science diving.
You Have to be able to navigate you can't get lost you, have to deal with low, visibility you, have to deal with currents, and know when to. Call, a dive for safety, versus. Pushing, to get your science done so. It's. It's learning how to again, navigate it's, learning how to have, many things in your hand while also after having to deal with compensating. Your buoyancy so that you don't go shooting the surface or you don't drag, yourself, across the, beautiful corals, that we're all there to study because they're also very fragile and they can break so. There's. A lot, of a lot of technicality. To scientific, diving. And. What do you think is, there any like technology in the future that it would change that is it just gonna make it so that you have to dive less often. There's. A lot of diving technology that's, that's revolutionising. Our ability, to stay underwater for, longer periods of time like rebreathers. That allow. Us to go deeper. There's. Underwater, scooters, so you can cover more area. But. In terms of revolutionising. The way that we study reefs I mean I think it's the imaging system this is is where we're gonna see a lot of that transformation. Okay. There's. Some other technology, involved though beyond, imaging, things so. One of the problems that Zak, you ran into is you said you put your cameras in the wrong place, and, so, I'm. Curious how, do scientists, know where. A bleaching events gonna occur. Yeah. That's a great question. Right, now the. Main. Product. That we have is, the, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's. Coral. Reef watch program, which was run by Mark Eagan where. They, use satellites, derived. Sea surface temperature, data that. Basically. Allows you to develop a map of global sea surface temperature, I'm sure many of you have seen those maps and. The. Coral bleaching watch. Algorithm. Is constantly. Identifying. When waters, reach a certain degree above, normal. For, that particular area, and that time of year and when, temperatures, get above a. Certain, amount. Typically, one, degree above the monthly mean for. A week or more, that. Would be called a degree heating week and then if you have many, degree, heating weeks or if the temperature is, more than a degree you know it's an a more extreme warming event you, have these accumulated, degree, heating weeks and so we develop maps that are essentially, predictions, of where you would expect to find bleaching, based upon the extremity. Of these degree heating weeks and the, thermal anomalies so we can then use those to inform, science to say the, northern, gbr isn't looking too great right now we better get out there and see if the corals are bleaching which, can be really important, to identify. Bleaching, but one of the really cool things that I think those products can also do is to. Allow us to find places that should be bleaching, that aren't and that's where we can really learn about what. What is it with those corals why are they able to survive, these really extreme warming, events and what, can we learn from them to help better. Inform. The, rest of reefs, around the planet. So are there like, little sensors. What's going on with the tech to change or make these predictions more accurate yeah that's another, good question so the, SST, data those are all sea surface temperature, derived there, are on the ground. Ground. Truthing spots, around the world but. Again thinking about tech and and the future, there.
Are Scientists at Scripps dr., Eva Sens lab another, engineering, group who is working. To build these little, mini mooring, systems, so it would be a surface, float with. A satellite connection, that would be connected to the bottom and on the bottom you would have temperature, sensors you'd, have pH, sensors, measuring ocean acidification which, is another big. Problem and you would, have cameras. That could be taking time-lapse, pictures, of the reef every. Day and, delivering. Sending, those data in. Real time through. Satellite, connection, back to I, would, this is what I envision having some control center where you have hundreds. Of screens and you're watching pictures of reefs from around the world coming in while also seeing the, real-time. Autonomously. Collected, temperature, data coming in so we, would have kind of a coral, reef a, coral reef bleaching, control, center allowing, us to see this and the, technology, for these things exists, it's just a matter of getting the funding to produce them in a cost-effective, way. To. Get them in the hands of users all around the world. So. Continuing. On we, all know that climate change affects things but other than climate change humans, can locally, affect coral reefs Jen. You're studying how pollution overfishing and, introduction, of invasive species, can alter coral reefs, you've. Recently looked at baselines, and human impacts on coral reefs across the Central Pacific. Can. You tell me a little bit about some, of the things that you've found in those things and, in, those studies and. Like. How you go about getting baseline, data and. Documenting, change, I mean you kind of already talked about this a bit if. You're not diving down sixty times day. Backed us yes, so the I'll. Just mention briefly we. Talk about the global impacts, that coral reefs are facing things like warming and ocean acidification, but. They're also vulnerable. To, other types of stressors such as overfishing, and, pollution, and, that's because corals, are. Ecosystem. Engineers seen there compete, with things like this these fleshy algae, or seaweeds and. There. Are a lot of fish species that eat those seaweeds, that help keep them in Chuck and there's, also a lot of things that humans do like dump sewage or fertilizer. Agricultural. Runoff onto, reefs which can fertilize these seaweeds and so coral. Reefs typically, exists, in a pretty delicate. Balance of having healthy. Fish populations, that keep those seaweeds cropped, down and low, nutrient. Concentrations. Or nitrogen and phosphorus like sewage and fertilizer which, prevents, seaweeds like this from blooming, and so. By managing. These local, stressors, we can actually help. Our reefs stay, healthy, and help them be, able to weather, storms like, thermal. Bleaching, events in the future so it is really important, to think not only about climate. Change the only thing that matters these, local, disturbances, like fishing. And pollution. Coastal. Development, deforestation. All of those things can affect reefs at a local level and. Anzac, what kind of stuff are you doing to kind of keep your eyes on the water yes. Sir view, into the blue with the cameras that we made previously. Yeah. We custom-built. These time-lapse cameras for the purpose of chasing coral but their original intention, was actually. As webcams so, we have cameras all over the world that you can go online and literally, just watch what's happening on a reef so, that's kind. Of like Tom up you could take images from it and build a time-lapse out of the the image data set that you have there but more than anything it's just eyes on, top of little, portion of a reef so it does create a really, good baseline, for, information. On potential, changes, into the future, so. That's kind of one of the things I think the biggest dream, that I have ever baseline, footage would be to get these time-lapse, cameras back out onto reefs and actually, watch recover, because recovery is something that doesn't. Get the same attention that the mortality does, and so so. Much of what happens on this planet is in the slow lane, so. When. You use time lapse and when you have this ability to utilize, imagery, to, manipulate.
The Way that you're all viewing this. That. That's really where I think the baseline, data is headed right now is like to give people a little bit of perspective shift, on to what's happening in nature and. I think that's where the imagery, is finally, allowing us to get into that and it Ygritte II just like those corals fighting like that's. Probably I'm assuming, over a few minutes or even a you know an hour or so and you can put it into this five-second chunk that's digestible and you can actually communicate what, the issues are what the baselines are how things are changing in a way that we just can't, do, without. Manipulating, the time, variable. Yeah. It takes a lot it's, a lot faster to see like bleaching, than like the little regrowth. Things and. All. Corals. And coral reef, systems are different Jen's, going to tell us a bit about that. You're. Involved in this project. Called the 100 island challenge, which is a global, collaboration led. By scientists at Scripps using. New. Technologies, to document, how, they are different can. You tell me a little bit more about this project sure. Be happy to so, the hundred island challenge is a collaborative, project, with dr. stewart Sandin who's actually here and, as our Vijay. Myself. Dr.. Brian C glinsky at Scripps as well, as a whole team of engineers at the UCSD School, of Engineering, Qualcomm. Institute, where. We're using, novel. Imaging, technology, to study coral reefs around the planet as. You mentioned know two coral, reefs are alike and so that's why we have such. A huge sample size a hundred islands to try to capture how. Coral reefs change, over, time as they experience, different, conditions, so for, example we have different geologic, ages of islands we have different human population, densities, we have different oceanographic. Conditions, as, we move. Across islands, around the entire Pacific and the Caribbean and because. Of those that, natural, variability and the anthropogenic. Variability. We don't expect, every, reef to change over, time in the same way and so, hence, the hundred islands, we, go out into the field we, use, this. Novel imaging, system well, it's essentially just taking lots of pictures and stitching, them together I'm. Using photogrammetry. In. Structure, for motion which allows us sorry let me interrupt, what's photogrammetry, it's. Essentially, taking, so, you take thousands. Of images and. Using. Anchor points, it can essentially, you, know if we took if, we just took one picture of this of this, bottle we would just have it in two dimensions but if we take pictures all around we, can essentially build it in three dimensions. And. So by, taking thousands. Of pictures with these camera, systems we, bring all of those images back we put them into a commercially. Available software. Called. A geosoft which uses, structure for motion to, now build these three-dimensional. Models out of all of the data that we collected so in a single dive a, one-hour, dive with two divers we, can image an area about. Half the size of this room and then, we can spend the next year. Extracting. All of this data so these are all corals that have been painted or digitized, back in the lab where. We can look at individual, species abundances. We can watch massive. Growth. This. Is a time series from one reef between. 2014. And 2017, so, you see or, 2013, lots, of little corals in this image and the next one shows them all ma. It's, a huge, amount of growth to see in three, years so talking about you, know growth it is a lot harder to measure, because corals, grow slowly. Death, is easy to measure because they can die quickly, anyway, the hundred island challenge is using this technology to, study reefs around. The world working. With local partners to try to ensure, that the, technology you, know it's it's not impossible. It's not entirely, difficult, there is some expense, to getting it up and running, and building. A pipeline that allows you to collect the images to extract, data and to do something with them but, we're working with local partners at all the sites around the world that.
We Work at to try to bring this technology into their hands to ultimately, get it to, the people that live and depend upon those reefs for their livelihoods, and, it's, been pretty effective so, far everybody, is so excited, to be able to take a dive on their reef back. In their living room a lot, of people don't don't, dive maybe you know elderly, people in the community once did dive and used to spear fish well now they can take, a dive at any point in time from their their, couch and enjoy the, reefs, from. Home so. They just like looking they, pull this up on their computer and. Like. Zip through, so. Using. Custom. Customized. Software. That. Has been built by our collaborators. At the UC, San Diego School of Engineering, vid, Petrovic, and falco Cousteau have. Have, enabled us so, anybody can build a 3d model it's fairly easy with, this these, commercially, available software programs. Vid. Has essentially, built these programs that allow us to move, in this 3d environment, those. Lines show the diver path that the diver took as they were collecting, images and allows, us to not. Only move through this landscape I mean it's pretty cool you could kind of looks like a video game but it, allows us to actually go into that landscape and extract, data there's, lots of different data forms. Different data formats that, we collect for example here we're collecting, three-dimensional. Complexity. Where you can lay. A mesh, over, your landscape, and measure how, complex. How much three dimensionality your, landscape, has looking. At cross-sections. As you move through that reef which is really important, for thinking about habitat, for fish and. Other animals that live within that reef this, would have taken us thousands, of hours to capture as a diver underwater, where we literally would lay a chain, across the bottom and measure how much chain it took to go a certain linear distance. It. Allows us to measure. Coral, species we can paint with in this program and 3d and actually get estimates. Of surface, area of corals we can measure growth and death. And life and rebirth, and you know recolonization. So. This. Software has really innovated, our ability to. Extract. Information from, these 3d, models and it's through, wonderful. Collaborations, that we've been able to do this so. And. Zac how do these differ from what you can get with, 360. Camera. Is. That when. We think of a coral reef like the. Way that we used to do you know taking pictures on a quadrant, and you just see it but it's, inherently, a three-dimensional, space anyways. The ecosystem. Itself is growing, on top of itself and over itself and so what, you can't, get with. A 360. Image or with anything else is what's, underneath that coral can you actually get a really. Good sense of the diversity on an ecosystem by, being able to look at it in kind of this more layered, fashion, rather than just a two-dimensional image where anything. That's underneath is. Is. Not exactly. InFocus. You. Can't actually come out with a different. Idea. Of the ecosystem, but a 360. Image, is. Really, for me it's just it's a good baseline it's. Something that a we can take a ton of them and you can put it on one of these scooters that allows you to roll, through an ecosystem and you can walk away with a, hundred kilometer, or a 100, meter transect.
With. Full, 360, you can go do that dive over, and over and over again as many times as you want and then you can go back and do it again after, a mortality. Event or after recovery, and be, able to see that and then it obviously has these really cool applications, outside of the scientific, world so, with, this advent, of VR, those. Are now applicable, to do really interesting, things outside of the lab yeah, tell me a little bit about like how you see this playing out in like you do a lot of community, outreach. What. Do you think yes I do a lot of work with virtual reality one of the cool things that came out of chasing coral was this project originated, with Richard beavers project, called XL Catlin Seaview survey. A big 360, camera that they roll through the ocean and it just takes thousands. Millions, of vr imagery, and those, were just used for baseline datasets then. Eventually we realized well, you know we can utilize, this with this up-and-coming technology. That can be put into educational. System it, can be put into all these really creative, ways and so, it, ultimately became. Ocean, Street View and now there's an application called Google expeditions, that houses all of our imagery and you can go and for me in Colorado, it's really amazing I can go take a student, and in Boulder Colorado that, may never see the ocean and I can take them on a virtual dive. And. So there's these really cool applications. And VR is really in its infancy right now and I think that that technology and, for the ocean in particular, it's going to give the average person, an opportunity to experience places, that not. A whole lot of people get to do I think it's less than 1% of the population ever, goes scuba diving. And. I, mean but so. In. Sort. Of moving we. We don't have too much time left so I'm trying to move, on a little bit but, do you think that VR can, evoke, the same feelings that somebody, does who's actually like in the water I know you had a lot of emotions, and yeah. It's. Obviously, not the same, you're, not getting the entire experience you, can't match being weightless right, you. You can't match, what. It feels, like to know you're somewhere that you shouldn't be, but. What you can do is get them excited about the natural world right, and I'm taking, this perspective from kids is we're. All really excited about nature, I think we're all born that way we're all born to want to explore things and we all have find things that we find interesting and the ocean, is something, that's really hard to just, have in your everyday life unless you live right there and even, people that do might not get it and of some places that I've worked like in Panama, for instance and you have entire communities, that have amazing, coral reef right out their backyard and none of them I've ever put their head underwater so, if you can show them you, know and never, get wet what they have or what these places are like you, kind of can cultivate that inspiration, for a to care, about it and. Hopefully to actually get out there and experience it because experience, it's how you build a love for it and then, that love is what goes into the protection and the technology. That we're developing right now is just making that protection a lot more feasible and I, do. Think VR is going to be a huge role player particularly. In education moving forward I think we just have a lot more work to do there it's like everything else with tech it's. Moving quickly but we're. Constantly, in this mode of progress, and eventually, I think it's gonna fit really well into a handful, of of niches, you, see, and. I'm. Just gonna go off script here, we. Don't have a ton of time but I want to talk about. Regrowth. Of these things you were mentioning in the hundred island challenge you're going to a hundred islands like why who. Cares yeah, and what's. So different about I mean I don't. Know. What's. So different about like all these. Reefs and the pictures that you get from them and what can we learn from that and why does that matter yeah. I mean even during this, last global, bleaching, event 2014. To 2017. There. Were places around the planet that experienced, extreme, bleaching, like where Zach worked in the the northern Great Barrier Reef there. Were places in the Central Pacific that. Got, really hot that bleached but, didn't die there. Were places, that. Actually. Didn't leach and so when, we see these warming. Events even if they're called global bleaching events, it doesn't, mean that every, reef on the planet experienced.
Bleaching. And mortality and. That every reef is now dead in fact, we've seen many, reefs that this. One shows this video, first shows some mortality, but, we we've had this, remarkable, ability to watch regrowth, and as I mentioned corals are so modular, half of a colony can die and the, other half can stay alive and the half that's alive can, regrow. Back over, that massive, skeleton, that was left behind and so, they can take back over the space that they once occupied and, regrowth. I think is, something. That we all are really excited, about and especially after these these bleaching, events where we see mortality, we, now have the opportunity to, figure out what. Places are growing back and why are some places growing back more quickly than others and most likely it's going to be tied to those local, management, things I mentioned oh this, place happens, to have really clean water and healthy fish populations, and it's recovering, really quickly because, we've managed, that system to be as healthy as it can to. Recover from these big disturbance events, I see. And, so. Where. I was going with. All. Right so so they can regrow, oh like, what percentage, you like. I really I don't know if you guys still think this but you hear that, all the corals are dying but then I don't because, I talked to a lot of scientists, and a, lot say that actually like that's not the big story so like what's the percentage, like is. There. A percentage, of the ones that, are. Bleaching, does that make sense. I. Think. I don't know if there are good estimates, of what proportion, of reefs during this last bleaching, event actually, bleached. And died I think that those data are currently being compiled because it was so recent, but. Definitely. As I mentioned not all not, all reefs, have, bleached and died and in fact we are seeing recovery, at a lot of locations around the world. We, definitely have, I know Zack and I both feel a little bit the same way that we're. Not saying that climate change and, carbon, emissions are, not a hugely. Detrimental effect. Or a factor, to the health and longevity, of, these reef ecosystems, and we absolutely need, to address that the. Sooner the better although, I know right now it's not necessarily. The best time, for a government, to be taking. A firm role, in that, but. There are things that we can do locally, to, help keep these systems, give, them the best chance that they have into weather the climate storm, that's definitely, inevitable, you. See. Some. Of the places that I've been diving recently, like you go there and you have the expectation, that it's gonna be 100% mortality and. I go diving really, nasty places most of the time but, like, what that's, still a really big issue and so it is like just as Jen saying it's like this fine line between saying. Where I'm going is going to be completely, trashed, but. There are going to be little pockets, that are going to be absolutely, magic, that, shouldn't be alive but our thriving still, and then you're gonna see recruitment, I mean I just got back from Australia two, months ago and was, on some of the gnarliest dives, that I've ever done but there are babies everywhere, and that's so hopeful, and that's how you have to think of it but like, you can't just, say oh well everything's all fine and dandy and you can't say everything's.
100% Dead, like things just don't fit into black and white categories. It's, all kind of a gray area but you, have to you have to find the hopeful positionings. Of it and then just work with that as hard as we can but that's not to say there isn't a problem. And. So we've. Come to the Q&A time but I want to give you guys one chance, quick, 30 seconds, what's. The big take-home, message here like about how tech, like, what's technology, telling you why. That. Technology. Is transforming our, ability, to learn from the marine environment so. We're now able to have, eyes in the water more, frequently, than having, a diver in the water we can actually watch processes. That matter for. The health and longevity of these systems we can we've. Just, having these photo mosaics, and this larger scary is larger, scale perspective we, all of a sudden learned that whoa, those species like to live next to each other and those species like to avoid each other we never even knew that it's like what you get from satellite, imagery and forests. Where forest. Biologists, have known these things for for, decades and we're now just beginning to get a glimpse into learning some of these spatial, patterns and it's. Gonna transform. And rapidly accelerate, our knowledge. That, we gain from these systems I think, for me it's just that all this tech becomes, twofold. Yes we're getting incredible. Data we're getting incredible, science and all of these opportunities for, novel research is coming out of it but, it's also totally, applicable. To share back to the public and really powerful ways we, have like the lowest attention, spans that we've ever had right now and so when we have these new technologies, that are allowing, manipulation, of time allowing us to look at things a little bit differently that we can't inherently. Do ourselves that, allows us to have a big conversation about communicating, the amazing work that is happened the science doing, it in beautiful ways doing it in really tangible and digestible, ways and. So not only we're getting the cool information, out of it but we're also you. Know taking a step forward to making progress to being able to actively, and, actively. Communicate, it back to the public because that's one of the harder things to do is. Allow people to know what is happening and to show it in a way that they. Can take in and run with they. Give the Rifa voice, yeah. The. Tech is literally giving the repo voice absolutely. Thanks. Guys, so, now we're gonna open it up to questions. And. You. Can if you have a question please, just step up to the mic because we're recording it, hi, hi. My, name is Corey I'm a product, designer and I'm constantly thinking about how tech, the, tech industry, can plug in to environmental, issues because as, you know there's no shortage, of problems to solve and, so. Something. That hasn't already mentioned this panel is the idea that we can't have Jen, Smith's in every corner of the planet and, so. Something.
That Needs. To be considered is how to crowdsource, and create citizen scientists, so I'd love to get your insight on how you see, the. Tech industry being able to develop. The tools and resources for. Communities. To take action themselves. Well. I think that, the technology like, the pipeline, for, collecting. These 3d, images, underwater, is not. Rocket, science essentially, we could spend a, half. A day training session, with, all of you in this room assuming. That you are all scuba divers and wanted to go underwater and collect images and you could go out there and collect the images yourself. And you could put them into a just, soft and produce a 3d model it's, the the. Later. Steps in the pipeline the data extraction, and then the processing, if we, care about using. These models for data versus, just using them for education, and outreach which, also has a huge, value right. In. Terms of data extraction. There's, machine learning algorithms, that are being produced. People. Are working on machine learning. All. Over the place trying to develop algorithms that you. Can imagine an a reef landscape, it's incredibly, complex, and so being able to identify species in, that landscape using, machine learning even, when Zach and I would probably argue over, which species was what is really. Challenging like, we can use, machine learning to identify dog. Species, or different, faces. But for, identifying. Reef landscapes, it's quite complex but nonetheless, I mean the tech isn't. Unreachable. For a lot of people it's just developing. This pipeline and Stuart's talked for a long time about, building. This access, pipeline, maybe it's a business. Where we can help people go from the beginning to the end so. I think it's really accessible, I don't. Know if that answered your question just, a touch on the citizen, science really quickly I think, that's something that we need more now than ever, mostly. Because you're very right in the fact that we can't be everywhere at once if any of you have seen the film like I was based at Lizard Island and, I can do my work there and I can document bleaching. In that ecosystem but, when it's happening in the Maldives when it's happening and Kier boss when it's happening in Indonesia when it's happening all in all these places on a global scale I can't. Do it right it's just not possible so you do have to reach out and, you do have to find people that spend time underwater and would be willing to share images back even if it's just an image it's baseline data for a place that maybe isn't like the hot research station. Yeah. But those those, data are almost even more important right yeah. Again I think we should be encouraging everybody. To be taking images and we. Need to build this kind of global image repository.
Where All of these reef images can come together where. We can have. You, know a storehouse, of 3d images where anyone around, the globe can say I want to go for a dive on st.. Thomas today, and just sit from their computer and do it and we can all contribute to the collection of those data. Next. Question hi. I'm Lucia Athens, I'm the chief sustainability officer, for Austin thanks for this great session, I just wanted to ask you in terms, of the edge occasional, message, that you would deliver to kind of the most broad public, audience, that is engaging with this work and I think it's so exciting that they can't engage in this way I mean. You know, for things like the the, pollutant. Issues. You know I guess like not using. Disposable. Plastics, and or chemical, sunscreen, or you. Know. Responsible. Seafood choices you. Know and what you're consuming, for for your diet. Cutting. Down on your fossil, fuel use whether it's through you know building energy use or, transportation. What, kind of messages, and what do you tell people about what they can do beyond, just kind of engaging with the science, yeah. I have, a very broad answer I'll, never sit up here and give you one silver, bullet because, the silver bullet doesn't exist. Every. Single, community, is going, to be different what you can do an awesome that's gonna make the biggest difference. For your community is probably radically, different than what it is in LA or in Boulder Colorado or, in Sydney so it's really about identifying, what, is your best opportunity in your own local area and I, don't know what that is in Austin, whether. You have an amazing, transportation. System that's built up to be extremely. Sustainable. Then you might want to look into that so much. That. Might be your answer right but I think that we have to take a local, view I'm, not a big fan of standing. Up and telling people how to live their lives and and giving, the one thing that I believe in like save, the coral reefs don't pollute in the water like yes that's something that you can do but, I think in the when you look at it from a global scale it's the little local things, that are the most important, it's just like the conversations, that we've had about restoration, well, you might not be able to restore. All the corals in the world the little projects, that are happening in communities, around the world not, only are educating, those communities, and building a passion, and a pride for their own ecosystem for their own coral reefs but, they're also doing, something to to better the community that they live in so, you think it comes down to the human side how, can you best progress your community, rather than. You. Know just, sticking. It to the man and saying we're gonna just do Drive Tesla's, all right like that would be cool. But. It's it's, more about manipulating, yourself into a position that you. Know you can get everybody on board, with something that, is going to help everyone. In the room and. It's a very broad, answer but that's the way that I usually answer. That. Thank. You. Technically. The times up but we can take one more question. Thanks. So much I, teach. Science. Communication. Directly to scientists, at Boston, University, and this. Is will be a great thing to share with. Them but, I'm wondering if you can. Talk. About, your experiences. With. Collaboration. With say, as a scientist, to. The. Entertainment, industry, or science, communicators. Directly, or. Yeah. If you can speak about what kind of partnerships, or collaborations. That. You guys tap. Into. Then. It could be funding, or even just creating, better outreach products. Yeah. I mean I think we, have so much potential, and, our. Kind. Of involvement. In these the. 3d models and the visualization tools, is still, really, at its infancy and so we're, looking for. Collaborations. And partnerships I mean we think those, 3d models should be used in Pixar, and there should you know think about Finding, Nemo but it's actually, a real reef that the fish are flying through there's. So much potential, you. Use. For these things and and we're just really scratching the surface and. We. As scientists, I might actually push it over to Stewart to see if he has anything to add to. Collaborations. And outreach, with the models but, yeah. We're totally. Excited to share and to collaborate and to find ways to get, this, tech out into, the world and to bring reefs to anybody who wants to learn from them so we are totally open to chatting, and brainstorming.
With You I don't know Zak, obviously, works more directly with, I. Think for me it just comes down this storytelling. You know we're a big proponent in a show don't tell. Numbers, and graphs and all that jazz are meaningless to people quite frankly you. Got to give them a human story you got to give them something to relate to you have to be able to communicate. In, it in a common language with the average person, I think that's where scientists, struggle, for good, reason, if, I had one wish in the world it would be every single science department, and every university has an on staff animation, department that can tell the stories about what's happening in their world because they, simply are just ineffective. At doing it themselves for, the most part so. It, just comes down to I think how you frame things you can't just jump, the gun you have to give the gist and you have to give it in a really concise story, that's entertaining, you. Know talk about the people talk about the challenges, because. The numbers just don't seem to work for people. We. Do have one company that's interested in using some of the the 3d right it's actually the two two-dimensional. Orthophotos, to use, as text, textiles. Or prints which. Would be really cool I think we would all want to wear coral reef yoga pants. For. Sure for outreach I'm gonna repeat. What he said for. The recording. Yeah. He was asking is, there some financial, incentive, right, okay. Yeah. I mean for any kind of federal grant that any of us apply for there always needs to be broader impacts, and outreach components. So and. Most, you, know a lot of scientists, do the same old thing we're gonna build a website you know this so the more creative those, outlets can be the the more impact, they will have ultimately, so there's definitely incentive. Well. I think. It's. 134 so the thing is wrapping, up but I think all right Jules. So. Jules developed some of this technology. Can. You can you speak into the mic please. Thanks, Jen for your compliments, I won't take them personally. When. We broke the microscope, story on the front page of the New York Times we had about 180, media, outlets, that, had gotten contact, with us and we answered every one of them I was just at the Museum of Natural History we, have our robots in their show and we, got interviewed, by Popular. Mechanics Discovery. Magazine, and so those. Of us that are interested in doing outreach can, can work with directly, trying, to pitch a story to Joanne over here as well and, so we'll see how that works out. Sure. Well. So, now. We're just gonna wrap up thanks everybody for coming to the panel if you want to take a virtual dive yourself. They're. Somewhere, in the back in the back left corner your. Right corner, and. That's. It Thanks. You.