ReefSource is an exciting intersection of technology and journalism that uses first-hand data collected from underwater cameras to study coral reef health via colour metric algorithms. The project is an ambitiously funded Magic Grant sponsored by the Brown Institute Of Media Innovation.
We believe technology empowers journalists and researchers to use the environment as a firsthand data source.
We are distributing cameras designed to capture coral reef images to scuba divers in order to mine data from images of coral that can help us gauge the health of reefs in in target locations. This innovative idea combines new imaging modalities, crowdsourced data collection and analysis in a way that will provide a model for participatory storytelling and citizen journalism in environmental reporting. Environmental reporting typically relies on scientific and government reports. We would like to add a new dimension to climate change stories by empowering journalists to deploy their own sensors and tools to collect data directly from the environment, enabling a new type of interview. We are turning the environment itself into a source.
We are also focusing on stories about coral reefs because they are the “canary in the coal mine” for determining the health of ocean-based ecosystems, as well as coastal areas. Not only does a quarter of the ocean’s animals and plants depend on healthy reefs for food and shelter, but entire economies lean on the tourism and fishing industries reliant on thriving coral populations. In the Florida Keys alone, $2 to 3 billion come in every diving season because of the coral reefs just off the coast. But these reefs are in perpetual danger of bleaching events and damage from human intervention, as well as rising ocean temperatures. At the same time, current coral reef monitoring strategies tend to be slow, expensive and reactionary, targeting reefs with already noticeable damage. People’s livelihoods, hobbies, and even their health hang in the balance along with the life of the coral. As coral bleaching becomes a burning concern for conservationists around the globe, we want to contribute to the movement through our own sensor-based storytelling that will run through the span of the project.