Can Big Data help save the Great Barrier Reef?

Recent media reports have recently highlighted how much damage has been caused to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald had the following shocking story: "Half the Great Barrier Reef's coral has disappeared in the past 27 years and less than a quarter could be left within a decade unless action is taken, a landmark study has found.

"A long-term investigation of the reef by scientists at Townsville's Australian Institute of Marine Science found coral had been wiped out by intense tropical cyclones, a native species of starfish and coral bleaching."

Can Big Data help save the Great Barrier Reef?

This was one of the ideas floated at an event in Singapore on Tuesday (2 October) by Steve Leonard, Office of the chairman, EMC.

Going by the advances made in the field of Big Data, it would seem possible as far as help from Big Data-based monitoring technology is concerned.

And scientists in Australia are already using this technology to better understand the ocean environment. Australia touches more ocean than almost any place on the planet- and indeed, its ocean territory, which spans three oceans and encompasses several million square miles, is the world's third largest.

Since 2007, Australia's marine and climate scientists have banded together in the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) to collect and share terabytes of data emerging from a network of sensor floats, underwater autonomous vehicles, scientific monitoring stations, remote satellite sensing, and animal tags (such as the one on this elephant seal, above). "You don't win by locking up your data and storing it away," says IMOS program director Tim Moltmann. "You win by putting your data out there and collaborating with others."

So how does it work? This data is continuously captured and then it integrates that information into IMOS's massive database of the movements of individuals or species. Similar information is gathered about ocean salinity, temperature, currents, carbon storage, and animal migration.

According to a fact-sheet by EMC, more than 300 researchers are currently involved with the IMOS project, an effort that has resulted in an unprecedented 1,000 scientific studies being published each year. And IMOS hasn't attracted only scientists: every day Australians, from fishermen to fans of yachting races, check the program's public sites to follow currents and migration patterns.

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