Coral Reef Monitoring & Response

June 29th, 2017

This research test bed, within the Active Integrated Matter Future Science Platform, aims to develop novel monitoring and response technologies for coral reefs, based on our expertise in advanced materials, sensors, and autonomous robotics.

We want to achieve our goals through close collaboration with internal and external partners working in the marine environment, to facilitate our detailed understanding of the requirements and priorities in the marine domain and validation of the developed technology in field deployments.

Healthy coral reef slope, © Matt Curnock 2013.
Healthy coral reef slope, © Matt Curnock 2013.

Coral reefs are unique, beautiful, and mysterious. Home to a large number of marine animal species, coral reefs both protect and provide. They protect us from severe weather systems and provide food for our tables. We know now that coral reefs are fragile and despite their massive size, large areas of the reef can be impacted by small variations of the environmental conditions.

Existing scientific evidence shows that the reefs are in danger from global warming, pollution, over-fishing, and boat traffic. Yet comprehensive understanding of the state and the future of the reef is unclear, due to the need to collect data over a large spatial scale and the forbidding environmental conditions for sensors to operate in.

It is essential to collect more detailed data in this unique ecosystem, to model the impact of human activities and the changing environment, and to develop technologies to help us manage the reef on a large scale. We seek to develop new coral reef monitoring and response solutions by combining advanced materials, sensing, and autonomous robotics technologies.

Working with our partners and collaborators, we’d like to develop airborne hyperspectral sensors specifically designed for marine environments, large scale networks of low-cost biodegradable micro-buoys, autonomous mobile sensing platforms that last, and novel marine sensors that allow us to sense reef ecosystem relationships currently poorly understood.

We will apply the developed technology in specific marine applications, including qualitative evaluation of the reef health, detection of illegal fishing or shipping, and monitoring and management of major threats to the reef, such as outbreaks of toxic algal blooms and crown of thorns starfish.

This testbed is led by Brano Kusy.

This testbed is building a Marine Internet of Things (M-IoT), that combines in-vivo biological sensors, autonomous underwater vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, surface buoys, along with in-situ machine learning, reef model integration, and big data analytics. The figure below provides an overview of the Marine IoT architecture.


Five important coral reefs worldwide are in Australia

  • Great Barrier Reef, QLD
  • Ningaloo Reef, WA
  • Rottnest Island, WA
  • Solitary Islands, NSW
  • Gove Peninsula, NT

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef

  • >3000 unique reefs along 2300km coastline
  • Australian icon, world heritage status
  • The GBR’s economic value has recently been estimated at $56 Billion