I’m here to help. What am I supposed to do?

There are 15 circles randomly placed on each image.  You just need to identify what is below each circle – if it’s hard coral, select ‘hard coral’ from the list on the right, and click on all the circles that are on hard coral. Continue until you’ve done all the circles, and then click the submit button.

How do I know what I’m looking at?

Unless you’re completely familiar with coral and algae, we recommend you look at our Help Guide, which clearly shows the difference between hard coral, soft coral and algae.  It also explains what sand looks like, and what to put in the other and unsure categories…

What’s a good way to tell hard coral from soft coral?

The best way is to study the different forms in the Help Guide

I’m seeing what looks like rock or rubble – where do I put that?

Put it in the ‘Other’ category. You’re probably seeing old bits of broken up coral.

Is algae always green?

No, it can be brown or red as well – make sure you have a good look through the Help Guide.

What do I do if there is more than one thing in my circle, ie sand and algae?

Select the category that makes up the largest part of the circle.

What if I see algae on top of what looks like coral?

Select algae if it is covering the coral.

I’m not sure what I’m seeing

That’s okay – just click on the ‘unsure’ category.

What if I make a mistake?

You can click on the circle again to change it to a different category.

I’ve submitted an image, but I realise I made an error in my classification. What should I do?

Once you’ve clicked ‘Submit’ for an image then you can’t go back and re-do it.

Don’t worry too much if you think you’ve made a mistake – each image will be done by many, many different people – it’s a process designed to weed out any little errors.

Can I get some feedback on how I’m going?

It would be lovely to be able to give feedback, but one of the main purposes of Virtual Reef Diver is to lessen the work for the scientists. And asking them to review people’s performance would massively increase it!

Don’t forget, the system is set up in such a way that each image is classified by many citizen scientist in order to iron out any individual errors.

Can I edit my details?

Simply login and then click on your profile picture in the site navigation.

Why is the Great Barrier Reef a topic of concern?

Coral reefs are dynamic and have evolved to naturally regenerate after extreme weather events such as cyclones. However, added stresses related to climate change (e.g. above average sea surface temperatures and coral bleaching), land-based pollution and outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), are making reef recovery particularly challenging in many areas. If you’d like to learn more about how these added stresses affect the reef, please take a look at the Reef health section on the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website.

What is citizen science and how can it help the Great Barrier Reef?

Citizen science is when members of the general public participate in a scientific project, often in collaboration with professional researchers and/or scientists.

The sheer size of the reef presents one of the greatest challenges when it comes to monitoring its health, so the more eyes we have on the reef, the more we can learn about its condition. Citizen scientists include people like you at home, who in this case are helping to identify hard corals found in underwater images. These new ‘data’ provide scientists with an estimate of coral cover in areas where they may not have visited and this new information helps managers make more informed decisions about reef monitoring, restoration, and management.

What is coral cover, why do we measure it, and why is it important?

Coral cover is the percentage or proportion of the sea floor covered in hard corals. It is a popular reef health indicator because hard corals are essentially ‘reef-builders’ – their skeletal structures form the basic framework of the reef. These corals support a multitude of other organisms in the marine environment, by providing areas of food, shelter and nurseries. At the same time, coral cover is also sensitive to variety of human impacts including climate change, destructive fishing practices, land- or ship- based impacts, and tourism and recreation.

What is predictive-modelling and how can maths help the Great Barrier Reef?

Predictive modelling is when researchers use a scientific model to predict an event or situation that might occur in the future or in a place they haven’t visited. As more data are collected and included in the model, the accuracy of the predictions usually increase. When you help classify coral in underwater images, you are helping us collect data for our models.

You can learn more about how Virtual Reef Diver uses your data to predict coral cover here.

What role can I play in this project as a citizen?

The Virtual Reef Diver project provides a new avenue for members of the general public to engage in monitoring the Great Barrier Reef, without having to get wet. You can get on board as a citizen scientist by ‘dry-diving’ into one of the world’s most widely-recognised natural wonders, and at the same time help provide observations on reef health. Find out more about classifying images of the reef on our Classify page.