Researchers Use Cell Phones to Monitor Coral Reefs

cell phones coral reefs© The Nature Conservancy/Sangeeta Manghubai

As we've discussed before, more and more cell phones are becoming the ultimate tool for environmentalism. With cell phones outfitted with cameras, GPS, apps and more these days, scientists are finding new applications for the pocket-sized gadget everyday. In the latest example, researchers from Conservation International, WWF and The Nature Conservancy monitoring the health of coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia have turned to the everyday technology to help them out.

In a blog post for Conservation International, scientist Helen Fox said, "Standard coral reef ecological monitoring includes recording coral cover and fish populations on underwater paper and then transferring that data to a computer. Data entry, cleaning, standardization, sharing, and analysis are huge challenges in the process of turning information into good decisions and policies. In order to streamline this process, we want to test out other possible methods for monitoring the health of coral reefs, including using cell phones to collect data underwater."

During their current trip to study the coral reefs, the scientists began testing two different underwater housing devices, two types of ruggedized cell phones and two types of software programs to figure out what combination could improve the monitoring process. They hope that the cell phones could collect data underwater and then when they have a signal, upload it to a cloud-hosted database.

To test the underwater housings, the researcher put pieces of tissue in them and submerged them. Both housings kept the tissue dry down to 33 feet. The cell phones passed an initial underwater test in the housings -- in the boat's rinse bucket. Next they will put the cell phones in the housings and submerge them in the ocean and test their performance.

Researchers Use Cell Phones to Monitor Coral Reefs
Cell phones in waterproof casings are being tested as a replacement for divers making routine monitoring trips.

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