Surveying in the News: NASA Surveys the Great Barrier Reef

At Leslie & Thompson, we interact on a daily basis with the most common and in-demand surveying needs. For property identification surveys, engineering surveys, large scale land mapping, and other services for engineers, property owners, builders, and more, the surveying we provide is a vital aspect of a project’s development process.

It is always exciting to us to see surveying in the news; we appreciate its deep value in local and immediate ways, but seeing major surveying works shared on a national or international scale is deeply rewarding. It reminds us just how integral surveying is to the continued advancement and success of our society, and shows that surveying is still in a state of constant advancement.

Most recently, it came to our attention that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (better known as NASA) is using surveying technology for a very special project with environmental implications. NASA has begun surveying our own Australian treasure, the Great Barrier Reef.

The Purpose of NASA’s Great Barrier Reef Survey

Arriving in early September, NASA’s study of the world’s largest reef ecosystem was set to transpire over a period of two months. Scientists from the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) intend to survey six specific areas of the reef.

Like many of the ocean’s delicate reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef has shown evidence of damage and destruction due to human influence and environmental factors. Gaining a better understanding of this process is one of the main purposes of the NASA survey mission, as the data collected will go a long way towards finding better ways to protect and conserve this valuable part of our natural world.

Scientists involved in the study have reported that very little surveying has been done previously of the world’s coral reefs. The surveying techniques required to do so have proven costly and complicated, delivering often skewed results that do not help with understanding the bigger picture. What data does exist is often contradictory and limited. CORAL’s reef survey will be the largest reef survey project to date and will help to correlate existing reef conditions with other factors—particularly the results of human influence or environmental change.

What the Survey Entails

CORAL is spending two months studying the Great Barrier Reef, but the project will extend to other regions of the world over three years. The survey technology will generate aerial photographs of the reef via spectrometers located on the underside of a plane. The Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM) that will be used was created by California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and is the same as those typically used on the Mars Rovers. PRISM will create high resolution oceanographic imagery using reflected light. With remarkable accuracy, the PRISM should produce excellent data. While the plane flies overhead, measuring from a height of 8500m, scuba diving scientists will be beneath the surface making their own measurements.

For Your More “Down to Earth” Surveying Needs

Recognising surveying’s importance in our world reminds us that we may benefit from it directly. Do you need a survey or land mapping service? If you’re looking for a professional Shoalhaven surveyor, Leslie & Thompson are a team with decades of devoted industry experience. With a love of the craft and a commitment to excellence in every aspect of our work, you can depend on the surveyors at Leslie & Thompson for all your earthbound requirements.