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OFF BEAT: Catlin, Google team up to study Great Barrier Reef

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Google Maps is going undersea, but it is not to help people find the fastest route between islands.

Instead, Google Inc. is participating in a major scientific expedition sponsored by London-based Catlin Group Ltd. that will conduct the first comprehensive study to document the composition and health of sections of the Great Barrier Reef.

Google is collaborating with the Catlin Seaview Survey and working on a new feature so 360-degree underwater panoramic images can be uploaded and made available to millions of people worldwide, according to Catlin. About 50,000 panoramas from the Catlin Seaview Survey eventually will be accessible on Google Earth and Google Maps.

The survey’s intent, though, goes beyond finding beautiful undersea views. The survey’s science adviser, professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, said the scientific data gathered by the survey will strengthen our understanding of how climate and other environmental changes are likely to affect ocean ecosystems in the Great Barrier Reef.

The survey is scheduled to begin in September.

Catlin Group CEO Stephen Catlin said Catlin’s sponsorship of the survey isn’t at all a stretch.

“As an insurer, Catlin offers our clients protection against many types of risks, so it is natural that we should play a leading role in sponsoring research to learn more about the risks of tomorrow.”