Allen Coral Atlas tracks the world’s reefs from space

Checking coral reefs
A field team from the Carnegie Institute for Science collects critical coral reef spectral data to calibrate Planet Dove satellites for the Allen Coral Atlas. (Carnegie Institute Photo / Chris Balzotti)

Even after death, the philanthropic initiatives from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen just keep on coming.

Today the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies and its consortium of partners unveiled the Allen Coral Atlas, a database of satellite imagery and environmental data aimed at mapping and monitoring the world’s coral reefs in unprecedented detail.

The foundation of the atlas is a global mosaic of satellite imagery, acquired starting last year by Planet’s constellation of Earth-imaging satellites. The images document coral reefs at a resolution of 4 meters (13 feet) per pixel.

Other partners — including the University of Queensland, the Carnegie Institute for Science, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and the National Geographic Society — are analyzing and validating the images to produce maps that show reef depth and water color, and discriminate between the reefs and algae, land, rock, sand and rubble.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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