Acoustic (sonar)

Uses sound to detect objects


Faculty member assigned to help you plan your class schedule and give advice about careers. This is also the person to talk to about internships and scholarships.


Caused by man

Bachelor of Science (BS) degree

A college degree from a 4-year university, where a specific major(s) is completed


This is when the coral expels its symbiotic zooxanthellae, causing it to appear white (or bleached). It is a response to environmental stress, specifically high sea temperature and excess ultraviolet light

Chlorophyll concentration

How much chlorophyll is in the water. Chlorophyll is specific to plants in the water because they use it to photosynthesize. Thus, this is a proxy for how much plant life (phytoplankton) there is in the water.

Coral polyps

Thisis is a single color-less coral animal and is about 1-2 cm is size. Millions of these together can form a coral reef

Coral reef managers

The people whose job it is the protect coral reefs in their area

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The highest graduate degree, a recipient is thought to be an expert in their field of study. This can take anywhere from 3-7 years to finish


This provides the means for scientists to perform research. It usually comes from the US government (e.g., NASA, NOAA, EPA, NSF) and needs to be competitively applied for

Genetically diverse

When organisms differ in their specific DNA make-up.


This is when researchers visit the geographic area of their research to prove that their research is valid, often done for remote sensing research


This is the specific term given to corals that build stony coral reefs


Data taken directly from the ocean, in the field. The term is Latin for "in place".

Infrared (IR)

This is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is 700-16,000 nm

Lilles and Kiefer

T. M. Lilles and R. W. Kiefer, Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation, 3rd ed. Wiley, 1994

Limestone skeleton

Limestone is formed by calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and is the rigid (stony) structure. Coral polyps produce this material which each generation layers on top of each other, which allows for coral reef growth

Master of Science (MS)

A graduate degree completed after a BS that provides more specialized training and takes about 2 years

Master's Thesis

This is a written document detailing the research of an MS student, which must be orally defended and signed by the student's advisory committee before it can be accepted for graduation

Non-degree seeking student

A student who takes college courses for continuing education but not for actual college credit


This is when there is an excess amount of nutrients in the water (which the coral does not use) that can be used by fast growing algae. The algae and coral compete for the same bottom space


A specific type of water that is very low in nutrients, perfect for coral growth as they get their nutrients from their symbiotic (see definition) relationship


Refers to a satellite that is actually working correctly and is in use up in space, in orbit


Uses light properties to define objects. An example of an instrument that uses optics is a fluorometer. It sees the small amount of red light that plants give off and uses it to tell how much plant life is in the water.


This describes the path and altitude of a satellite circling the Earth

Peer-reviewed scientific journal

This is where scientists share their work with other scientists. Each paper submission is thoroughly reviewed and edited for content. Not all paper submissions are accepted for publication

PhD dissertation

This is similar to a Master's Thesis as it is the final step to gain a PhD. It is a written document that must be signed by the student’s advisory committee as well as being orally defended

Polar orbit

A specific orbit (see description) of a satellite that crosses near the north and south poles on each pass

Primary productivity

New plant biomass formed by photosynthesis. This forms the base of the food web in the form of phytoplankton in the ocean. Remote sensing satellites can see this.


Uses radio waves (microwaves) to see objects. This type of remote sensing is helpful in studying the ocean because it can “see through” clouds which block the ocean in in optical remote sensing data


Produced from the object. For example, light is radiated or given off from the sun.


Bounces off of a surface. For example, when light is reflected off the surface of the ocean it bounces off and travels back in the direction that it came from


These group of corals are hard (stony) and are the type that are capable of building coral reef structures as they are the ones that produce calcium carbonate (see limestone skeleton definition for more)


Swimming under water with a tank of air so you can breathe. This is a skill that needs to be learned and you need to be certified to do it on your own or for scientific research. This is the best way to study the ocean, especially coral reefs.


This is occurs when sediment (e.g., sand or mud) settles on top of the coral. The coral must use energy to remove the sediment, which means that it cannot use that energy to grow

Sensor calibration

Data from sensors on the satellite are compared with data from the field to make sure it is correct. For example, ocean temperatures from buoys are compared with temperature data from the NOAA AVHRR sensor to make sure it is working correctly.

Soft corals

These groups of corals are not rigid and do not build reefs

Spatial resolution

A description of how large of an area that can be documented as unique in an image (aka pixel size)

Spectral resolution

A description of what part of the electromagnetic spectrum a satellite uses


A means by which different organisms provide a service to another organism. In the case of coral; coral provides nutrients by way of nutrients that the algae need to perform photosynthesis, the zooxanthellae provide nutrients (to produce energy) to the coral that can be used for growth

Tandem orbit

A specific orbit (see definition) of two or more satellites that follow each other and take the same measurements but minutes to hours apart

Temperature, salinity, nutrients and clarity of the water

Typical measurements taken in ocean research to tell the quality of the water. These parameters are most important is defining the physics and biology of the area.

Temporal resolution

How often a satellite visits the same place again. For some remote sensing satellites it can be as often as 2 times a day or as infrequent as once a month


Data taken at the same location for a long period of time. Allows scientists to look at trends in the data.


The area of the globe that sits between 23.5 degrees North latitude (Tropic of Cancer) and 23.5 degrees South latitude (Tropic of Capricorn)

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

This light (energy) is not visible but it has the most energy. This is the type of light you protect yourself from when you put on sunscreen; it is also bad for corals, which produce their own sunscreen

Visible (VIS)

This is light that humans can see and is 400-700 nm on the electromagnetic spectrum


These are the symbiotic (see definition) algae (plants) that live inside the cell walls of the coral polyp. These are what supply the color to the coral.

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