Abstract: Globally, coral reefs are under threat. Unfortunately, the rate of ecosystem degradation often surpasses the rate of generation of knowledge required to support management. Despite the considerable efforts to monitor coral reefs, limited resources, differences in capacity and, inconsistencies in methodologies weaken the bridge between scientific advice and management decision-making. For more than a decade, images (‘photo-quadrats’) have been widely adopted as a technology for rapid assessments of reef condition. More recently, applications of big-data science, more specifically artificial intelligence, have rapidly evolved in coral reef ecology. Although loosely connected, the evolution of these technologies now provides plausible opportunities for fast-tracking measurements of coral reef condition across geographies. Here, I will discuss recent efforts towards an open-access tool, ReefCloud, as an end-to-end approach for integrating, synthesising, reporting, and communicating coral reef monitoring using advances in automated image analysis and statistical modelling. By making accessible these technologies with easy user engagement, ReefCloud is aimed at generating robust, meaningful, and visual syntheses from complex datasets to facilitate a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the condition and trends of coral reefs. Ultimately, effective communication from global monitoring efforts will lead to more efficient, adaptive and transparent conservation actions.
Biography: Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero is a senior research scientist and lead of the Biological and Ecological monitoring team at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Manuel is a coral reef ecologist who is interested in bridging gaps between the monitoring and management of ecosystems through innovative approaches. The main focus of his current work is developing multidisciplinary tools to inform conservation and policy-making of coral reef ecosystems across a range of geographies and socio-ecological lenses. Manuel received his PhD in ecology from the University of Exeter (UK) in 2012. His work has produced over 30 publications in peer-reviewed journals and technical reports and it has been featured in such news outlets as Time, CNN, BBC, ABC and others.