Local divers in the U.S. Virgin Islands are helping monitor the beautiful coral reefs offshore, giving scientists valuable data that would otherwise be expensive to collect.

Vibrant coral reefs help the local economy on the U.S. Virgin Islands, making it imperative that they stay healthy.

Traditional scientific monitoring of those coral reef ecosystems usually requires collecting a lot of ecological and biological data, which can be tough to gather, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, a recent study by NOAA found that:

“Using participatory mapping, scientists with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the University of Queensland gathered information from occupational divers across the U.S. Virgin Islands. Information gathered helped scientists understand the ecological conditions, threats, and uses of popular reefs in the region.

“Study findings indicate that participatory mapping holds promise as a cost-effective alternative or supplement to traditional monitoring programs. The information acquired from knowledgeable divers can help resource managers prioritize and direct investments for future monitoring and management activities.”

If you want to drill down to the truly geeky findings, check out NOAA’s Coastal Science web page at coastalscience.noaa.gov.