Transforming underwater insights into data-driven actions to save coral reefs

MERMAID is a platform for underwater coral reef data collection and analysis. Our vision is a world where information quickly and cleanly moves from the hands of scientists to communities and governments, enabling rapid action to protect coral reefs.

MERMAID (Marine Ecological Research Management AID) is an online-offline open-source platform for coral reef data developed in partnership between WCS, WWF, and Sparkgeo.

MERMAID helps us create transparency around coral reef health and empower people and institutions with the data they need to take action to save reefs. Our global dashboard can be used by anyone to access near real-time information about reefs around the world.

This platform shapes our coral research, helps us advocate for better policies to protect reefs, and empowers communities and scientists to turn data into local conservation action.

MERMAID is changing coral reef monitoring for good

Having access to coral reef ecosystem health data empowers communities with the knowledge they need to manage their resources. While many ecosystems have benefited from advances in satellite technology for monitoring over the last decades, coral reefs are an outlier - detailed information about the health of corals and reef fishes can only be measured underwater one dive at a time by field scientists. MERMAID plays a critical role in getting data from those dives to decision makers all over the world using cutting-edge cloud technology.

Reef scientists have historically used clipboards to record their findings underwater before manually transferring that data from paper into Excel, spending hours sorting and editing each cell to organize their findings, remove typos, and calculating information one point at a time using spreadsheet formulas.

With MERMAID, scientists input their reef observations directly onto the platform and MERMAID automatically does the work of tagging and sorting data, avoiding duplicates and standardizing scientific names, and immediately summarizing critical indicators, like the percentage of live coral cover on a reef or reef fish biomass. MERMAID then aggregates and summarizes the data from underwater monitoring surveys around the world so that marine scientists and members of the public can - for the first time - see a real-time snapshot of the health of coral reefs.

Photo Credit: ©Emily Darling/WCS

We believe that clean, standardized monitoring data, processed quickly and stored centrally and securely, can transform and accelerate coral reef conservation. Timely, accurate, and understandable information on reef health must move from scientists into the hands of communities, governments, and organizations like WCS to empower people and institutions to save coral reefs.

Featured at Bloomberg’s 2019 Data for Good Exchange, MERMAID is an example of a cutting-edge technology designed by coral reef specialists for coral reef specialists. User-driven and field-ready technology is at the core of our mission.

MERMAID’s data tells us: Is conservation working? Are reefs recovering? What reefs are the most threatened or healthy? How can conservation help reefs adapt to a changing climate?

MERMAID is being put to use around the world

MERMAID is used by hundreds of scientists across over a dozen countries, allowing them to move quicker than ever from field data to decisions on the ground in MPAs and coastal communities. In WCS’s Fiji program, scientists regularly conduct monitoring expeditions and then are able to quickly share their data with communities and government partners to inform local conservation decision making.

MERMAID is also aligned with major international policy efforts like the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity as a key tool for countries to measure and track their progress towards global biodiversity targets.

What's next for MERMAID?

Just launched in 2020, MERMAID’s global dashboard democratizes coral reef data, letting anyone from anywhere around the world pull up a map of the globe’s reefs to get a quick, simple snapshot of how they’re doing.

MERMAID has an ongoing partnership with the Allen Coral Atlas to connect the Atlas’s state of the art habitat mapping to MERMAID’s underwater surveys of reef health. MERMAID users can visualize Atlas data layers and download them with their data. In the coming year, MERMAID plans to develop integrated threat reporting for coral bleaching and water pollution working with the Allen Coral Atlas team.

Check out our website for more information.

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