Monday, April 22, 2024

Stunning New 3D Models Are Helping Researchers Study Coral Reefs


Researchers at Buffalo University have created 3D digital coral reef models that prove invaluable to research scientists.

The work is the effort of scientist Ángela Martínez Quintana, who created the models that accurately represent the surface of coral reefs in incredible 3-dimensional detail.

What makes Martínez Quintana’s work stand out is not the fantastic models but how they are being used to study coral reefs in an unprecedented way. The modeling is part of a greater body of research by Peter Edmunds, Ph.D., at California State University, Northridge and Howard Lasker, Ph.D., at UB. Both are exploring why some corals on a reef are thriving when some are in decline.

Commentng on her work, Martínez Quintana stated:

“When I started to do this, I did not know that reefs could be reproduced digitally, and I tried to measure holes and crevices on the reef with a caliper…These organisms can be just a few millimeters in size, so to find them, I spent hours with my face 10 centimeters from the bottom of the reef… This method has the potential to be revolutionary, since it will allow us to better understand how organisms partition their environment and interact with each other on complex three-dimensional ecosystems. It could be used not only on coral reefs, but also on ecosystems such as the canopy of the rainforest.”

Martínez Quintana collaborated with Adam Wilson, Ph.D. a biogeographer and associate professor of geography in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, who stated:

“What’s really innovative about Ángela’s research is that she’s using these 3D models to learn about ecological processes…She’s interested in recruitment and successful growth of young corals on the reef, so she’s been mapping where the coral recruits are on that landscape, and then using statistical models and machine learning models to try to infer which microhabitats are suitable for those corals to succeed.”

You can find out more and view some of the models here.

(Featured image credit: Ángela Martínez Quintana)

Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life! Sam is a Staff Writer for