Using AI and robotic boats to advance community-led reef restoration efforts

Project title: Empowering community-led coral reef restoration and prioritization in the Maldives
Project lead: Peter Harrison
Countries involved: Australia, Maldives
Supporting institutions: Southern Cross University, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, University of Queensland, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Queensland University of Technology, Maldives Coral Institute, Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture, Rathafandhoo Council, South Huvadhu atoll
Total budget: $1,459,988
Duration: 36 months

This project has developed a system which can improve larval production efficiencies by 40% and will now apply this approach in the Maldives. First, coral eggs and sperm are captured in fine mesh nets, with gametes then strategically crossed to generate hundreds of millions of robust, genetically diverse larvae that can be grown on natural limestone tiles and transported to degraded reefs, where they will grow into adult corals. Partners across the Maldives will be trained to use AI-imaging, satellite imaging and a remote controlled submersible robot boat to map reefs for bleaching responses and genetic diversity. This new floating robot can monitor significant changes in study sites and deliver larvae to their new homes.