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Sly Lee, a marine scientist and the founder of The Hydrous, is passionate about conserving these beautifully diverse ecosystems and believes he has found the best way to do so. Previously, coral reef research consisted of taking measurements with a tape measurer or chain, yet Lee saw an opportunity to turn simple photographs into detailed 3D images – and even 3D printed figures – so that researchers in and out of the water can catch a glimpse of these underwater societies.

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Related: Report finds that the Great Barrier reef has lost 50% of its coral over the past 27 years

The goal of The Hydrous team is to be able to map all of the coral reefs for the purpose of monitoring changes more closely and sharing information with scientists all over the globe more easily. Using Autodesk Memento software, wonderfully detailed replicas of the coral come to life. The visuals will serve as tools to help push for better conservation policies as climate change effects are monitored. Lee and his team are setting out to The Maldives later this year to study effects of El Nino on reefs – and you can join, too! After having accomplished mapping an area 30 feet by 30 feet, the team is excited to take on an area of 300 feet by 300 feet. They are hopeful that, in the future, anyone with an iPhone 6 quality camera can take photos to contribute to the project.

+The Hydrous

Via Fast Company

Images via YouTube, Vimeo