Corals, Now Playing in 3D

Virtual reality software is giving researchers a complete picture of reef health.

November 24, 2015

Pocillopora edyouxi 2.0 by thehydrous on Sketchfab

Coral reefs are in serious trouble in waters around the world. Ocean warming, pollution, overfishing, and invasive species are all harming these vibrant ecosystems, but assessing the animals health can be challenging. Not only are corals, well, underwater, but the traditional methods for performing check-ups leave something to be desired. When former marine biologist Sly Lee saw his fellow scientists relying on old-fashioned tape measurers to quantify damage to reefs, he looked to technology for a better solution.

He may have found one. The Hydrous, the nonprofit Lee founded, is creating high-resolution, interactive models of these marine invertebrates. By comparing the virtual corals over time, scientists can get an ultra-detailed picture of how the real-life coral is faring. Eventually, the Hydrous aims to model entire reefs, making them accessible—even to the most landlocked researchers and students—with the click of a mouse.

Acropora valenciennesi by thehydrous on Sketchfab

Guam Coral Reef by thehydrous on Sketchfab

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