NASA announces in a statement released on Sept. 13 that it will start its two-month study of the Great Barrier Reef at Coral Sea off Queensland. Together with their Australian collaborators, the agency aims to shed more light into condition of the world’s largest reef ecosystem and the function of reef systems worldwide.

According to Eric Hochberg of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), who is also the principal investigator for the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL), this knowledge will allow scientists predict the future of this global ecosystem and offer policymakers with better information to improve their management strategies.

“The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s national treasure, so having a broader understanding of its condition and what’s threatening it will help us better understand how we can protect it,” says Tim Malthus, research leader of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Coastal Monitoring, Modelling and Informatics Group in Canberra, Australia. “Along with surveying several large sections of the reef, CORAL will also survey the health of corals in the Torres Strait, a complex high-tide area that has been historically less studied. It is also opportunistic for us to see if the reef is recovering after the recent bleaching event.”

Stuart Phinn, a professor of geography at the University of Queensland adds that CORAL will also offer Australian coral reef science and management with new maps of the Great Barrier Reef. The mission will also help advance the capabilities of Australian science and management agencies.

The research team says that current assessments on the Great Barrier Reef are inconsistent and limited. All of the reef assessments only depend on the expensive and difficult in-water survey techniques. Moreover, there has been not a lot of research conducted on Earth’s reef area as well as models that simulate the biological and environmental factors that impact them.

The scientists lament that coral reef ecosystems around the world are deteriorating at a rapid rate. They blame human-induced factors and global changes. Nevertheless, they believe that this mission will help provide further assessment and monitoring efforts that can help these ecosystems.