Scientists collaborating on the eReefs project are now using ocean gliders from the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) to gather real-time information about water quality in complex reef environments.
After testing the effectiveness of the technology off the coast of Palm Island near Townsville, collaborating researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), CSIRO and the University of Western Australia are now set to deploy gliders to less-studied areas of the Great Barrier Reef.
eReefs Project Director Dr Cedric Robillot is encouraged by the early success of the initiative.
"Glider technology allows real-time information to be gathered in a cost-efficient way by reducing the need for marine scientists to spend significant periods of time in the field," Dr Robillot said.
"Using autonomous technology proves extremely beneficial when traditional methods, such as sending ships and people to distant reefs, are impractical or considered high risk.
"We'll use the additional information the gliders are able to collect at various water depths to improve both our eReefs visualisation tools and our water quality models. These models help us assess the impact of land management strategies on Reef water quality, but also allow us to predict the effects of floods, storms, bleaching events and temperature changes on the Reef."
The two gliders currently being deployed for the project are part of the ocean glider facility of IMOS. They’re the latest elements in the armoury of technology and scientific data combining in the six year eReefs project.
The project is creating a suite of visual, communication and reporting tools for Reef managers. Just as the Bureau of Meteorology does for weather, eReefs is delivering Reef water quality information online in near real time, enabling anyone to track the effects of storms, cyclones, floods and other impacts. The first of the eReefs tools, the Marine Water Quality Dashboard, is currently live on the Bureau of Meteorology website with more innovative tools are in development.
eReefs is a collaboration between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, AIMS and the Queensland Government supported by funding from the Australian Government's Caring for our Country, Queensland Government, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Science Industry Endowment Fund.
This article was originally published in the Great Barrier Reef Foundation newsletter, Reef Brief, issue 1, March 2016.