StoryMaps: A New Way to Explore our Findings from the Global Reef Expedition

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My name is Joana, and I am an IMBRSea student. This spring, I have had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. During this time, I helped the Foundation create StoryMaps to tell key conservation stories about the Global Reef Expedition. I produced three StoryMaps showcasing the findings and data collected during the Expedition.

My first StoryMap, Mapping Our Planet’s Coral Reefs, was the first of its kind published by the Living Oceans Foundation. This StoryMap guides user through the World Reef Map, showing people how to use it. A proper understanding of the detailed information available in the web-based map will help policymakers, local communities, and conservation organizations establish conservation plans to fight the unfolding coral reef crisis.

The second StoryMap takes users aboard the Global Reef Expedition, showing them what is happening to coral reefs around the globe. This StoryMap includes information on the scientific surveys carried out, the methodology used to map coral reefs, and the discoveries over a 10-year mission around the globe.

The last StoryMap, Lessons Learned from the Global Reef Expedition, highlights the five take-home messages of the Global Reef Expedition. The coral reef crisis was apparent in every location surveyed, and swift action is needed to conserve our planet’s coral reefs.

2021: A Remarkable Year for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

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Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, 2021 was a truly remarkable year for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.

After spending ten years in the field circumnavigating the globe, we concluded the Global Reef Expedition (GRE)—the largest coral reef survey and mapping research mission in history. Prince Khaled made the formal announcement at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, where we also presented our data and findings from this groundbreaking research mission.

Now that the Global Reef Expedition is complete, we are taking our coral reef research to the next level. This past year we signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to help them map the world’s coral reefs. We have shared over 65,000 square kilometers of our coral reef maps with NASA so they can use them as a guide for how to map coral reefs from space. We are also using our GRE data and expertise in a new partnership with the Pacific Blue Foundation that will use machine learning to automate image analysis of benthic photo transects. Meanwhile, we continue to work with our partners at the University of Miami on new coral reef health and resiliency models. This includes a new project funded by the National Science Foundation to assess the long-term health of coral reefs.

In addition to our scientific accomplishments, the Foundation had several notable achievements in outreach and education. In 2021 we launched a new TV show, Our Living Oceans, which is now playing on EarthxTV. This 6-part documentary series takes viewers on a journey of discovery, educating viewers on the health of our living oceans, the threats they face, and what is being done to save them through conversations with scientists, conservationists, and local leaders from around the world. We also expanded the offerings on our Education Portal, which continued to be a valuable resource for students and teachers, especially for those learning remotely during the pandemic.  

We are very proud of what we have been able to achieve this past year and look forward to what we will be able to accomplish in the years to come.

To learn more about our recent accomplishments, check out our 2021 Annual Report:

Meet the Interns: Joana Oliveira

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is hosting two interns this semester from the University of Ghent’s International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea) program. This international program focuses on marine resource management and conservation, and provides students with the opportunity to conduct a professional practice in their field.

One of our interns, Joana Oliveira, will be helping the Foundation create StoryMaps to showcase the coral reef maps and geo-referenced data we collected on the Global Reef Expedition. Learn more about Joana and what brought her to the Foundation below.

What drew you to the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation?
For my internship, I wanted to put into practice my marine spatial planning and GIS competencies, but I also wanted to work on my science communication skills. The position at the Foundation was the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. At the Living Oceans Foundation, I have the chance to work with world-class scientists and learn about the biggest coral reef survey ever in history…

Global Reef Expedition Final Report

The Global Reef Expedition Final Report summarizes the findings from our 10-year research mission to survey and map coral reefs across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as the Red Sea. The Expedition involved hundreds of research scientists …

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation Partners with NASA to Accelerate the Mapping of the World’s Coral Reefs

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Coral reefs are in crisis. Corals are an ancient life form and, because of the reefs that they build, the survival of countless other organisms is predicated on healthy coral ecosystems. But coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate. …

Can the Chagos Archipelago keep pace with rising seas?

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Having first visited the Chagos Archipelago in 2006, it was an immense pleasure to return with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation under the auspices of the Global Reef Expedition. Returning to the archipelago offered the chance to continue work that had been initiated nearly a decade earlier by other scientists—monitoring of the fish assemblages and health of the coral—but also begin new science initiatives.

Following the discovery of a rich portfolio of vintage aerial photographs for the Chagos Archipelago taken in 1963, we are examining the dynamics of the coastlines of the many islands in the archipelago in an effort to understand how low-lying atoll islands respond to rising sea level. Largely uninhabited, Chagos is one of very few places in the world where the behavior of islands can be tracked in the absence of artificial coastline modifications. That is, “natural” island behavior can be quantified.

National-scale marine bioregions for the Southwest Pacific

This scientific paper, by KSLOF scientists Alex Dempsey and Sam Purkis, shows how they used data-based methods to develop the first comprehensive oceanic and marine bioregions for the South Pacific. These marine bioregions enable the design of ecologically representative national marine protected areas in Pacific nations.

AI for Earth

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Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth program is harnessing the power of the Global Reef Expedition dataset to build a predictive model of global coral reef health and resilience. Anna Bakker, a Ph.D. student working with KSLOF’s Chief Scientist Dr. Sam Purkis on remote sensing of coral reefs, was awarded the Microsoft AI for Earth Grant for the duration of her Ph.D. This program will grant us access to use the immense power of AI, machine learning, and cloud computing to analyze the data collected during the Global Reef Expedition.

High-resolution habitat and bathymetry maps for 65,000 sq. km of Earth’s remotest coral reefs

A study from scientists at the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and the University of Miami offers a new way to accurately map coral reefs using a combination of Earth-orbiting satellites and field observations. Using this new method, the scientists mapped over 65,000 km2 of coral reefs and surrounding habitats–by far the largest collection of high-resolution coral reef maps ever made.