Scientific Surveys

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation conducts scientific surveys on coral reefs to determine the status, health, and resiliency of the coral reef ecosystem. At each site we study, we bring a full team of scientific divers to conduct these surveys to get the most scientifically accurate data possible. This helps governments, environmental managers, and local residents gain a better understanding of their coral reefs so they can make informed decisions on how to manage and protect them.Coral Reef Scientific Surveys

In order to get a complete picture of reef health scientists must survey the entire aquatic ecosystem, rather than look at just one plant or animal. At every reef we visit, we conduct three types of surveys: coral surveys, bottom or benthic surveys, and fish surveys.

Types of Scientific Surveys


The coral survey consists of recording the size, species, and health of every coral along a transect, allowing for an accurate assessment of the coral community on each reef.


The benthic survey involves noting what is on the bottom of the reef every few meters to determine how much space each organism takes up on the reef bottom.


Fish surveys are conducted in a similar fashion, with divers logging the size, species, and number of all fish they see in front of them. This lets us know how healthy the fish community is and what types of fish are interacting with the reef.

We repeat all of these science surveys at several depths and at several sites as we move from island to island conducting our ocean research.Coral Surveys, Benthic Surveys, and Fish Surveys

After all of the data is collected and analyzed, we write it up and give it to the interested parties in every country that we visit. By conducting the same scientific surveys using the same methods on every dive we are able to compare our observations from one site to another. This lets us see the differences in reef health and resilience between sites, reefs, islands and even countries.

Related Publications:

  • 2022

    Ocean Decade unveils new set of endorsed Actions on all continents

    By IOC-UNESCO World Oceans Day: June 8, 2022 UNESCO has announced the endorsement of 63 new endorsed Actions in the context of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (the ‘Ocean Decade’). The announcement adds to …

  • 2021

    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 …

  • 2020

    Global Reef Expedition: Kingdom of Tonga Final Report

    The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation embarked on the Global Reef Expedition—the largest coral reef survey and mapping expedition in history—to study the coral reef crisis on a global scale. As part of the 5-year expedition, an international team …

  • 2019

    Diversity and Structure of Parrotfish Assemblages across the Northern Great Barrier Reef

    Published in Diversity, January 2019 By Garrett B. Johnson, Brett M. Taylor, William D. Robbins, Erik C. Franklin, Rob Toonen, Brian Bowen, and J. Howard Choat   Abstract The structure and dynamics of coral reef environments vary across a range of spatial scales, with …

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