Spring 2020 has left many around the world looking for new ways to spend their free time while “social distancing.” If you’re drawn to video games and the latest apps, why not become a citizen scientist at the same time by helping NASA map coral reefs? NASA’s NeMO-Net (Neural Multi-Modal Observation and Training Network) makes marine science more accessible than ever and contributes to a greater understanding of one of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems on Earth.
NASA has been collecting 3D images of the ocean floor for several years using unique fluid lensing technologies. This software uses machine learning to correct images that have been distorted due to water motion. In order to make sense of these images, NASA has created machine learning programs called neural networks that can process a massive number of images and identify the corals present in each location. These networks need to be “trained” in order to do this accurately, so NASA has turned to us for help. They have developed a video game called NeMO-Net that takes players on virtual dives around the world (led by videos from marine science legend Sylvia Earle!) to classify corals by digitally painting over 3D images. As players progress, they can earn badges to level up, review others’ classifications, and learn more about coral reef habitats. Each successful classification trains the program to eventually classify the photos on its own. The more people that play the game, the faster NASA can begin to answer questions about the bottom of the ocean. As Principal Investigator Ved Chirayath states, “NeMO-Net leverages the most powerful force on this planet: not a fancy camera or a supercomputer, but people.”
Why does this matter? Coral reefs are one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems in the world, supporting wildlife and humans alike. They “support more species per unit area than any other marine environment,” by acting as a food source, breeding ground, and nursery for marine life. On land, coral reefs support our economy through fishing and tourism, buffer coastal communities from damaging storms, and even provide compounds for new, modern medicines. Unfortunately, coral reefs are threatened by overfishing, ocean acidification, increasing temperatures, and sea level rise. By photographing and processing data about the ocean floor, scientists can better understand the impacts of these threats on coral reefs and determine how to mitigate them.
NeMO-Net is currently available in the Apple App Store for Mac and iOS devices and an Andrioid version is in the works.
Have you tried out NeMO-Net yet?
Latest posts by Ashley Reaume (see all)
- You Can Play Video Games to Map Coral Reefs for NASA! - May 13, 2020
- The Spekboom Challenge: Using Shrubs to Combat Climate Change - April 11, 2020
- Stories of Hope in the Midst of Australia’s Wildfires - February 3, 2020