Re(ef)source will distribute cameras designed to capture fluorescence and multispectral images to scuba divers in Florida in order to mine data from images of coral that can help us gauge the health of reefs in the area. This innovative idea combines new imaging modalities, crowd sourced data collection and analysis in a new way that will provide a model for participatory storytelling and citizen journalism in environmental reporting. Environmental reporting typically relies on scientific and government reports. The team will add a new dimension to climate change stories by empowering journalists to deploy their own sensors and tools to collect data directly from the environment, enabling a new type of environmental interview. Instead of relying on experts, they are turning the environment itself into a source.
Re(ef)source will focus on stories about coral reefs because they are the “canary in the coal mine” for determining the health of ocean based ecosystems, as well as coastal areas. Not only does a quarter of the ocean’s animals and plants depend on healthy reefs for food and shelter, but entire economies lean on the tourism and fishing industries reliant on thriving coral populations. In the Florida Keys alone, $2 to 3 billion come in every diving season because of the coral reefs just off the coast. But these reefs are in perpetual danger of bleaching events and damage from human intervention, as well as rising ocean temperatures. At the same time, current coral reef monitoring strategies tend to be slow, expensive and reactionary, targeting reefs with already noticeable damage. People’s livelihoods, hobbies, and even their health hang in the balance along with the life of the coral.