Skip to main content

NASA recruits gamers to help identify and map the world’s corals

One devastating way in which climate change is affecting the planet is by killing off coral reefs around the world. But while there are projects underway to halt the damage done to corals, it’s hard for scientists to know how widespread the problem is as we don’t have a good map of coral systems.

For several years, NASA has been developing a system for imaging coral ecosystems from the air using instruments attached to drones or aircraft. These instrument have collected plenty of data, but the images of corals need to be identified and classified before they can be used for research.

So, NASA is turning to citizen science for help with this project, by using a video game called NeMO-Net to invite people to work on the classification of corals. The game uses a neural network to take input from players and build out a worldwide map of corals.

“NeMO-Net leverages the most powerful force on this planet: Not a fancy camera or a supercomputer, but people,” said Ved Chirayath, Principal Investigator on the project. “Anyone, even a first grader, can play this game and sort through these data to help us map one of the most beautiful forms of life we know of.”

A user playing the new NeMO-Net game that helps NASA classify the world's coral from their own home
A user playing the new NeMO-Net game that helps NASA classify the world’s coral from their own home NASA/Ames Research Center/Ved Chirayath

Players take “dives” into the ocean and learn about corals while providing classification data from a virtual research vessel. The data they produce is analyzed by NASA’s Pleiades supercomputer.

“Data from the NeMO-Net game is fed to NASA NeMO-Net, the first neural multi-modal observation and training network for global coral reef assessment,” the website explains. “NeMO-Net is an open-source deep convolutional neural network (CNN) that leverages NASA’s Supercomputer, Pleiades, to use game data to classify and assess the health of coral reefs around the world.

“NeMO-Net exploits active learning and data fusion of mm-scale remotely-sensed 3D images of coral reefs captured using fluid lensing with the NASA FluidCam instrument, presently the highest-resolution remote sensing benthic imaging technology capable of removing ocean wave distortion. These data are used to train low resolution data from NASA’s Earth Observing System, including hyperspectral airborne remote sensing data and satellite data to determine coral reef ecosystem makeup globally at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales.”

The game is only available on iOS and Mac for now and can be downloaded from the App Store.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Astronomers want your help to identify thousands of black holes
sgr a black hole flares image 1405 1 sagittarius

Astronomers are asking for the public's help in identifying black holes using data from the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope. LOFAR is a radio telescope that has completed a huge survey of the sky and spotted many potential black holes, but the data requires further classification before it can be used for research purposes.

“LOFAR’s new survey has revealed millions of previously undetected radio sources," Huub Röttgering, astronomer from Leiden University in The Netherlands and first chair of LOFAR's Astronomy Research Committee, said in a statement. "With the help of the public we can investigate the nature of these sources: Where are their black holes? In what kind of galaxies are the black holes located?’’

Read more
NASA wants your help to design an avoidance sensor for a Venus rover
An illustration of a concept for a possible wind-powered Venus rover.

An illustration of a concept for a possible wind-powered Venus rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is looking to members of the public to design an avoidance sensor for obstacle courses that could be used for a future Venus rover. Despite being our planetary neighbor, few missions have ever landed on Venus because of its scorchingly high surface temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as surface pressure 90 times that of Earth which is strong enough to turn lead into a puddle.

Read more
Teenage NASA intern discovers single exoplanet orbiting two stars
An illustration of planet TOI 1338 b silhouetted by its host stars.

In this illustration, TOI 1338 b is silhouetted by its host stars. TESS only detects transits from the larger star. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith

A high school junior named Wolf Cukier has made an unusual discovery, locating a distant planet that orbits around two stars. He located the planet while working on a summer internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center last year, where he looked at data from the TESS planet-hunting satellite as part of the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project. In just a few days, he discovered this unusual system.

Read more