Web-based application improves data evaluation and availability
Coral reefs are as vulnerable as they are beautiful. Climate change heats the seawater and devastates the reefs worldwide. According to a report on the effects of climate change, by the end of this century, much of the world's coral reefs could be dying out, mainly due to bleaching events.
Monitoring the health and resilience of coral reefs is a lengthy and slow process. It can take years for the data collected under water to be organized, analyzed and shared. Therefore, WWF relies on an innovative tool that accelerates the capture of valuable coral reef data and allows scientists to exchange new information earlier.
The Marine Ecological Research and Monitoring Aid (link to: https://datamermaid.org) is a web-based tool that allows scientists anywhere to capture free valuable coral reef data both online at the office and off-line on the boat. Observations are entered directly into the application and do not need to be recorded in lists or similar beforehand. MERMAID is able to "correct" this data, fix bugs and generate clean, ready-to-use records. This saves researchers months of tedious checks on their data for errors and inconsistencies, helping them make decisions to protect coral reefs faster.
Developed by the WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society and SparkGeo, MERMAID organizes users in projects where data can be organized and accessed through partner institutions. Users can share summaries of data from their MERMAID projects around the world to inform others and encourage collaboration.
MERMAID must be easy to use to succeed. In December 2018, more than a dozen marine scientists from nonprofit organizations and governments attended a user meeting in Fiji to learn how to use the tool and improve its underwater monitoring capabilities. The participants also gave feedback on what they like about the tool, what needs to be improved and what new features can be added to make the MERMAID even better.
MERMAID will soon be able to perform basic analysis of datasets and create graphs, reports and maps. These tools will be critical to the speed with which researchers communicate with conservation managers, policy makers and local communities.