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The EcoAdapt project

Watch as Dr Serena Lee and Dan Ware discuss their research on dealing with the effects of climate change as a part of the Griffith EcoAdapt project.
Over the course of this century, projections indicate that we will see increases in temperature between 2 and 4 degrees. And that has a significant impact on extreme events. So large storm events, heat waves, and it also will change our precipitation regimes. So we can expect that we’ll see rain falling in similar amounts but in really different volumes in each event. Climate change will impact the biodiversity in our oceans in ways that we really don’t fully understand yet because we’re facing an uncertain future. We don’t know how much the oceans are going to warm. The changes in temperature could cause more marine heatwaves, so we’ll have more coral bleaching events.
And then that has cascading effects on the fish and the other organisms that utilise those resources as their habitat. So you’ve got changes in the ocean, in its temperature, in the sea level rise, and also in the ocean acidity. Corals in the ocean, they are affected by the acidity of the ocean. Similar to our teeth, if we drink too much sugary, acidic drinks, our teeth decay. So if the oceans are too acidic, the corals that are in those oceans, they also decay. Climate change will affect people across many islands in the Pacific by changing the conditions that they have come to expect. So these people have occupied these islands for thousands of years.
And they’ve developed agricultural systems and cultural practises that are in sync and very much sustainable for those local conditions. What inspires me about working on the EcoAdapt project is the ability to link up with these other experts and provide my information and see how that helps them. H ow does understanding the change in the ocean, how is that going to affect the rainfall regime, because the ocean and the atmosphere are intimately linked. And just as the ocean and atmosphere are linked so is the land. And so this project really brings all those processes together. You can’t really think of the changes or the impacts of climate change as just an oceanographer or just a land based scientist.
We really have to link up in order to be able to solve these sort of complex problems. The EcoAdapt project is working with communities across large ocean states in the Pacific to understand how they can become more resilient to climate change into the future. And to do that, we’re using a range of technologies. So we’re using satellite imagery and GIS systems. We’re using also drones to collect both images of the environment but also to collect data to allow us to do detailed three dimensional modelling and understand how particularly shorelines and coral reefs are changing over time. And then we’re also in the water, collecting video evidence of the condition of coral reefs.
We spent time in forests, looking at how forests are changing and the condition of forests and also how communities use those forests to achieve different services, and that some of the work that our social researchers do. And then finally in addition to all of that, we’re using some complex computational modelling to understand not just what are the ways that those systems work now but also how climate change will change those systems and how they’ll work into the future so that we can best design adaptation interventions that communities can use to become more resilient to climate impacts.
We use a whole spectrum of instruments from really high tech instruments and numerical modelling right down to really basic on the ground measurements and using local community to help us and provide that information and to isolate areas of particular interest to them. So the advance computer modelling that I’m doing as part of the EcoAdapt project is bringing in the global data but then having it at a fine enough resolution that we can understand the impacts of climate change at a local level. At the moment, the global data sets mean that you miss data for particular islands because it’s just not captured. So we have finer resolution modelling.
And we can force it with these global models but then capture the detail between these islands to understand how the local processes are affected by the changes in the global processes and the regional processes. The problem of combining data from different sources is something we often encounter in big data analytics. As Serena mentioned, one issue in the EcoAdapt project is combining the finer regional image data with corse satellite data. In particular, while corse satellite data may be sufficient for open ocean modelling when dealing with coastal areas and reefs, more detailed information is required. This is captured by research expeditions at points in time. However, accurately combining the detailed data with the global data can be difficult.

The EcoAdapt project is a program at Griffith University, Australia, to address climate change in the Pacific. The project uses data from a variety of sources to understand the effects of climate change on communities in least developed island nations.

Dealing with the effects of climate change

The aim of the EcoAdapt project is to identify appropriate interventions in the coastal zones of islands to deal with the current and future effects of climate change. One task of the project is to establish an ocean-circulation model for the South-West Pacific. The model is required to assess coastal erosion on the islands.

The challenges

Variety of data

While ocean-circulation data and models based on that data exist, the challenge for the project is in the variety of data. Global ocean-circulation data has to be merged with regional ocean-circulation data. The global and regional datasets do not align and sometimes rely on different measurements, such as the number of water layers per depth.

Incomplete data

In addition, the existing data may not be sufficient to make decisions on interventions for individual islands. Therefore, additional data needs to be collected and matched to the format of existing datasets.

Community partnerships

To gather data, the research team needed to deploy tidal gauges on the coral reefs in Port Resolution, Vanuatu. This was a tricky task as dive tanks were not available in the area. A local free diver, Nelson, provided a solution. He helped in the deployment by placing the equipment for the research team.

The tidal gauges remain in place over time to gather data. While the research team were not on the island, the instruments were cared for by the community, with Nelson diving to check on them. Partnerships with citizens in local communities help make achieving research objectives and gathering data possible.

Your task

Watch the video to hear Dr Serena Lee and Dan Ware discuss their research on dealing with the effects of climate change as a part of the Griffith EcoAdapt project.

Refer back to the challenges of big data analytics (in Step 1.7): data access, inconsistent and incomplete data, heterogeneity of data, and data privacy and protection. Which of these challenges could the EcoAdapt project face?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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