College scientists in 2021 Challenge Virtual Research Incubator

18 Nov 2021

While College boys catch waves and party in the coming summer holidays, four keen scientists led by Tim Wang, will be taking part in this year’s Space for Planet Earth Challenge.

Tim, Yusef Elnahas, Thimeth Wijesinghe and Bruce Chen have been invited to participate in the Space for Planet Earth Virtual Research Incubator looking at coral reef health.

The incubator will run from 15 November to 31 January, with all sessions conducted online, the College team expecting to liaise frequently with each other as they navigate the data available via the platforms using spacecraft and satellites from the United States and the European Space Agency.

Overseeing the action, and on hand to mentor will be Dr Andrew Taylor and Dr Tom Hawkins.

Tim Wang has been keen to do an activity like this since he was in Year 10, when he first saw a College team participate in an Aerospace Challenge.

He knows how to extract images from the European Space Agency data bases and to display and process them, and he’s started using and interpreting the Allen Coral Atlas data – initially studying the reef and lagoon around Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The Allen Coral Atlas is the result of an international collaboration using local surveys, satellite imaging and a sophisticated set of algorithms to map coral worldwide.

“We all know that coral reefs are an important part of our global environment. They’re endangered by global warming, and it is important to find a way of tracking their health,” says Tim.

In effect, the College team will repeat the Allen research, and see if they can detect colour change that might indicate coral bleaching events. They will consider tide, wind, southern oscillation, sea temperature change, and a number of other issues in order to see if there is a link between global warming and any reactions in the coral.

“The whole idea of the Challenge is to inspire the next generation to help address the biggest environmental issues that we have,” says Andrew Taylor.