Forecasting coral disease outbreaks across the tropical Pacific Ocean using satellite-derived data

This research is funded by NASA’s Ecological Forecasting Program (Applied Sciences Program).

Project Goal

The goal of the proposed research is to develop better models of coral disease outbreak risk across the western tropical Pacific Ocean (see map below) and embed these improved forecasts into the NOAA Coral Reef Watch decision support system.

Locations under development for coral disease forecasting project (map adapted from NOAA Ecosystem Science Division).
Project Team

Year 1 highlights

Project kick-off meeting on Oahu & focus group

June 24-26, 2017

  • First annual team meeting held at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
  • Drs. Bruce Monger (Cornell University), Joleah Lamb (Cornell University), Courtney Couch (University of Hawaii/NOAA Ecosystem Science Division), and Laurie Raymundo (University of Guam) joined the team meeting to provide complimentary expertise on remote sensing of water quality and coral health research in key regions of interest
  • Preliminary field sampling in preparation for larger efforts planned for later in the year
  • Held a focus group for coral reef researchers and manager from across the region to gain feedback on project plan, user interest, and an interface for the coral disease forecasting product interface
  • Participants included scientists from:
    • The University of Hawaii (including Kewalo Marine Lab and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology)
    • James Cook University (Australia)
    • NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office
    • Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
    • Maui Ocean Center
    • The Nature Conservancy
    • Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources
    • Kua Hawaii
    • American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group
    • Tetra Tech
    • U.S. Navy

Coral health surveys and sampling in Puako, West Hawaii &  West Maui

Puako, West Hawaii sampling, October 15-21, 2017:

  • With assistance from The Nature Conservancy, we conducted coral health surveys and sampled Porites lobata coral colonies from 12 sites in Puako
  • These surveys compliment a longer term effort to assess the relationship between water quality and coral health in the region
  • From the coral samples, we are characterizing coral metabolites and micriobiota in order to understand and quantify pre-visible coral stress response

West Maui sampling, March 12-26, 2018:

  • In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and with support from the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, we conducted coral health, coral recruit, and fish surveys, and collected water samples at 52 sites in West Maui
  • These surveys compliment a larger reef resilience effort from The Nature Conservancy
  • At 20 of the 52 sites, we collected coral samples of Montipora capitata and Porites lobata for metabolomic and microbial assays

Outreach Materials 

We’ve produced an informational 2-page overview of the project, and a flyer for outreach in areas where coral diseases of interest to the project may occur.  The project overview provides valuable background on Fore-C, and the flyer will be used to improve reporting of disease outbreaks relevant to Fore-C.

Get the project overview here: Fore-C Overview

Or check out the outreach flyer here: Outbreak Response Flyer

Updating SST dataset

We’ve completed the development and reprocessing of CoralTemp, a 5 km daily global SST data set!


We’ll be at the Ecological Society for America meeting in August 2018 in New Orleans, LA! ESA Abstract

Ocean Sciences Meeting, Portland, OR February 11-16, 2018 (Presenter: Scott Heron); OSM Abstract

Stanford University, Stanford, CA February 20, 2018 (Presenter: Scott Heron)

NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, April 24-28, 2018 (Presenters: Megan Donahue, Scott Heron)


NOAA Coral Reef Watch, CoralTemp: A Daily Global 5km Sea Surface Temperature Dataset. CoralTemp: A Daily Global 5km Sea Surface Temperature Dataset (2018) available at


Oceana article:


Forecasting coral disease outbreaks across Pacific Ocean