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Dr. Anne Cohen

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

About the speaker:

Dr. Anne Cohen is a Scientist with Tenure at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She studies corals and how they respond to changing ocean and climate conditions. She uses coral skeletons to reconstruct past environmental changes and conducts experiments to identify heat-resistant coral species. She is one of the leading coral researchers in the world and has been recognised as one of Top 15 coral researchers of 2020 by Eco Magazine, and one of Coral Champions by Lewis Pugh Foundation. She also leads expeditions to coral reefs around the globe. She is leading a project to create the world’s first Coral Reef Digital Twin to understand how coral reefs respond to environmental changes and to design conservation strategies.

Dr. Cohen’s Webpage: https://directory.whoi.edu/profile/acohen/

About keynote speech:
Digital Reefs©: transforming management, conservation and risk for ocean ecosystems in the 21st century

Worldwide, 1 billion people and 25% of all marine species depend on coral reef ecosystems. But coral reef futures, and the communities who depend on them, face unprecedented threats from ocean warming, rising seas and changes in the hydrological cycle, fueling urgent demand for new data and tools to support effective management of these valuable ocean ecosystems, and risk preparedness for island communities in the 21st century.

Digital Reefs© is a four-dimensional digital replica of each coral reef, built at the spatial and temporal scales required for effective decision-making, and designed to deliver actionable information to stakeholders across the global tropics. Through the platform, environmental protection agencies, resource managers, restoration practitioners, fishers, farmers, and infrastructure planners, will access state-of-the art data and models updated in near-real time, future projections of on-reef conditions, and what-if scenario tools, via intuitive, interactive, immersive visualizations of their coral reef ecosystem.

Leveraging Digital Twin technology, gaming engine platforms and cloud system services not available 5 years ago, Digital Reefs© layers 3-D meter-scale reef bathymetric data, output from 3-D hydrodynamic models that resolve temperature and flow at 30 to 100 m resolution and 150 m depth, benthic maps that identify the different reef environments, and high-resolution photogrammetry of the benthic communities. Use-inspired toolkits enable stakeholders to conduct what-if scenarios, including simulations of larval connectivity, sewage, and plastics dispersal, and to test the feasibility of various management options before they are implemented, including the design and placement of seawalls and causeways. Coral restoration practitioners can test out optimal locations for restoration plots in the virtual reef, and reef managers charged with bleaching-preparedness can design management strategies informed by future projections of reef temperatures combined with known thermal tolerances of coral communities.

Ultimately, a global-scale, interconnected network of Digital Reefs© has potential to transform the management, restoration, and sustainable use of coral ecosystems, and to provide the blueprint for application of Digital Twin technology oceanwide.

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