Indexing coral health status via an AI approach

Currently pursuing her Ph.D. with Université Côte d’Azur under the co-direction of Dr. Eric Rottinger and Prof. Eric Gilson, Megan Clampitt is investigating the use of automated tools for monitoring coral health. This project is led by the Institute of Research on Cancer and Aging in Nice (IRCAN, Pasteur medical campus), and it is based on original data from the Tara-Pacific expedition and in collaboration with the MSI, the CRIOBE, UNIPA and the Misool Foundation.

Previously, working on the Tara Pacific Expedition photo dataset during her master’s degree, Megan generated the manual annotations of all coral colony photos that were sampled during the Tara Pacific Expedition. Using these 11,000+ annotated coral photos, several AI machines are currently being developed to recognize health related visual cues such as coral bleaching, tissue appearance or predation. The end goal is to incorporate the wealth of data available from the Tara Pacific Expedition (telomere length, biomarkers & environmental context) into the model to provide a non-invasive health assessment of individual coral colonies with a photograph alone. Longitudinal data following the Tara sampling protocol is being collected in Moorea, French Polynesia to enrich and validate the model. Additionally, partnerships are being built in Indonesia to add sites within a region of high coral biodiversity (Coral triangle) and deploy a non-invasive sampling methodology to the study.

This study will increase our knowledge both on coral ecophysiology and how to rapidly and cost effectively monitor the health of coral reefs for a better decisional process to manage and protect these ecosystems that are essential for ocean biodiversity, and also a matter of paramount importance in the context of global warming as well as for the well-being, habitat, and economy of the island populations.


Megan Clampitt, PhD Student (IDEX UCA JEDI), IRCAN, Embryogenesis, regeneration & longevity Team
Tel.: +33493377739