Take to the sky to see corals like never before.

Launched in 2006, the Global Airborne Observatory (GAO), formerly known as the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), is an airborne laboratory developed by Dr. Greg Asner that uses cutting-edge technology to make advanced sensor mappings of Earth. Through its Airborne Taxonomic Mapping Systems (AToMS), Asner and his team are able to map ecosystems around the world: from the Bornean rainforest where they discovered the world’s tallest tree to the tropical reefs of the Dominican Republic that helped spearhead conservation of marine areas.

Occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than 25% of all marine life. Corals are under pressure from a range of threats, from overfishing and pollution, to coral bleaching and ocean acidification due to warming global temperatures. Over 200 coral species are listed as threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List, highlighting the need for efforts to protect corals as hotspots of biodiversity.

This VIEWS captures seafloor species, including corals and macroalgae, bringing to light a colorful collage of biodiversity.

Housed on a highly modified Dornier 228-202 aircraft. Image: Greg Asner
If no action is taken, models predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs will be lost by 2050. Image: Greg Asner
The GAO is regarded as one of the most advanced mapping technologies operating in the civil sector. Image: Greg Asner
A coral reef restoration project. The Dominican Republic has lost 90% of its coral reefs. Image: Greg Asner
Coral polyp in Belize. Image: Greg Asner
Coral polyps, the building blocks of coral reefs. Image: Greg Asner
Asner Lab’s Coral Haven Project deploys a team of highly trained ecologists using deep diving techniques to explore, survey, measure, and document the efficacy of artificial reefs with a focus on shipwrecks that can support future coral biodiversity. Image: Greg Asner

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