Re-Creating a Three-Dimensional Reef

Image: A three-dimesional image of the sea floor


Specialists from the Australian Center for Field Robotics, (ACFR Marine) have joined our existing science teams on board the Waitt Foundation Scientific Research Vessel as we re-survey the Great Barrier Reef. On this trip our team of robotics and imaging engineers are using our ‘stereo diver’ camera.  Just like a pair of human eyes, the ‘stereo diver’ camera uses two cameras with extra sensors for position and depth that together produce high quality images of the sea floor.



The benefit of 3D information


Three-dimensional images can help scientists to interpret the structural complexity of the reef.  A highly complex reef has lots of crevices and shelves and plays an important role in creating the ideal environment for marine life to find food and shelter.  Many species of fish rely on highly structured reefs for hunting and refuge. Rapid loss of the reefs, as a result of threats like over fishing and ocean warming, can have devastating effect on the biodiversity and function of the reef.


The broad-scale 3D information collected on this survey will expand on the information the Catlin Seaview Survey team collected in this region when it was last surveyed in 2012.  


By better understanding a reef’s structure we can determine more about the resilience of the coral, learn more about predator prey interactions and about how valuable the habitat is for marine life.  Not only can a structurally complex reef be a dive tourism asset it can also help to reduce coastal erosion by acting as a barrier. 


At the time of writing, the ACRF marine team had surveyed 50km of reef and our dive cameras have spent more than 30 hours underwater collecting information.