Spotlight on: Rebecca – Virtual Reef Diver

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated every year on 22nd April to demonstrate support for environmental protection. This year’s campaign focuses on protecting our species. Dot Dot Dot guardian, Rebecca, has been volunteering with Virtual Reef Diver to classify coral in thousands of underwater images and contribute to a growing dataset used to monitor the condition of The Great Barrier Reef.

How did you find out about Virtual Reef Diver?

I heard about Virtual Reef Diver on a Science Podcast, it was developed and launched in 2018 at Science Week in Australia. It sounded like a great opportunity to be able to contribute to the conservation of The Great Barrier Reef. I grew up on this coastline in Australia and feel distressed by the significant deterioration.

What does it involve?

The task is simple, you get a photo of a small area of The Great Barrier Reef on your screen. There are little white circles on the photo which means you need to classify these from the list of options, e.g. soft coral, hard coral or rubble. These are colour coded and once you have identified all the points circled on the photograph, you submit it and can continue to classify more photos.

Did you already have an interest in reef conservation?

I’m specifically interested in reef conservation and regeneration. Virtual Reef Diver is great because you don’t need to have a strong knowledge of the different kinds of corals. There are efforts to try to adapt a new coral to warming ocean temperatures to help save the reef for future generations. I would like to find a career in this when I return to Australia.

What have you gained from your volunteering?

I’ve learnt about my home country and unfortunately the deterioration of what is an incredibly vast ecosystem. I feel grateful that in some way I can help focus conservation and regeneration efforts to try and save The Great Barrier Reef, just by a few hours a week spent identifying whether there is alive coral, and or other sea life like algae present.

This research will in a very simple, straight forward way identify where exactly there is still alive coral, which will help scientists target funding for research and conservation to these areas specifically. Find out how you can get involved here.

If you have any recommendations for environmental volunteering opportunities, whether remote or hands-on, let us know at