Caribbean Reef Conservation

Asner Lab maps numerous countries in the Caribbean for conservation planning and management in partnership with The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean, Planet, and Vulcan Inc.

Our lab has produced high-resolution maps of important shallow underwater habitats throughout the entire Caribbean—including all shallow-water coral reefs. For the first time ever, countries and territories now have a clear picture of the habitats found beneath the waves of the Caribbean. These revolutionary maps will help guide the sustainable use and protection of marine resources for island nations in which 60% of living coral has been lost in the past few decades alone.

To create the maps, the Global Airborne Observatory completed data-gathering missions of both healthy and degraded coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. These data were then stitched together with tens of thousands of high-resolution satellite images. To validate and verify the accuracy of the satellite and aerial mapping, field data was also collected using drones, drop cameras, and SCUBA divers. This approach provided complex layers of information for multiple scales ranging from outer space to ocean depths, resulting in accurate maps of coastal ecosystems throughout the Caribbean. Having accurate and complete underwater habitat data for this region means that there is now cutting-edge guidance available to inform the sustainable use of marine resources on which 44 million Caribbean residents depend.

These data and maps will be shared with governments, conservation partners, and regional stakeholders to inform resource management for coral reef protection and restoration. The maps will also be used to more comprehensively understand the economic value and benefits that coastal habitats provide to people, recreation activities, tourism, and fisheries. The project seeks to influence the establishment of new marine protected areas, management plans for existing areas, and post-hurricane restoration and protection activities for coral reefs, such as plans for coral nurseries, planting, and spawning.

Project Website

The Nature Conservancy


The Nature Conservancy
Planet Inc.
Vulcan Inc.
Puntacana Foundation