Citizen scientists from around Australia are helping to build a much better picture of the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

So far, participants in National Science Week’s Virtual Reef Diver program have looked at over 2.6 million points on more than 170,000 underwater images of the Reef and reported whether they can see coral, algae or sand.

“The response we’ve had from citizen scientists has been amazing,” says spatial scientist and project leader Dr Erin Peterson from Queensland University of Technology.

“We couldn’t collect this volume of data without their help.”

“We’re taking their classification data and feeding it into our scientific models of the Reef, to better understand issues like changes in coral cover across the Reef.

“Virtual Reef Diver is such an exciting and unique project, combining statistical monitoring and citizen science to tackle one of Australia’s—and the world’s—most urgent issues, the protection of the Great Barrier Reef,” says statistician Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen from Queensland University of Technology.

Anyone can sign up to help the Reef by diving through their computer, tablet or mobile screen from anywhere in Australia.

Virtual Reef Diver will be running until at least the end of the year.