Allen Coral Atlas

Allen Coral Atlas Allen Coral Atlas
The vast, mysterious ocean was a place Paul came to view as his great escape. “Diving took me into a different physical realm — something like being an astronaut,” he said. As a certified diver for more than 20 years, he explored underwater areas throughout the world, from the Galapagos to the Red Sea. But one dive was unlike any he had ever experienced. On this trip he witnessed one of the largest, global-scale coral bleaching events to date. The crisis was unfolding before his eyes, and it was changing the health of the ocean he loved.
The vibrant colors and flourishing ecosystems he knew were being replaced with brittle, white and brown structures — all devoid of life. Climate change, plus overfishing and pollution, had decimated corals and killed half the ocean’s reefs over a 30-year span. Paul had long been monitoring the increasingly critical issue of ocean health, seeking out experts who were tracking ocean warming and monitoring coral death, and this dive ignited a new sense of urgency within him. Paul knew he had to do something fast. Because even though coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean, nearly one billion people and a quarter of all marine life depends on them.

As he did when tackling other massive challenges, he began by first identifying what should exist, but didn’t yet. In this case, an accurate, comprehensive assessment of all the world’s coral reefs. Much like his other exploration projects, Paul was searching for ways to fill important data gaps so that data, made available freely, could illuminate the big picture and provide understanding that fueled action. In fact, prior to Paul’s involvement, more was known about the moon’s surface than was known about the location, structure, and integrity of earth’s reefs. That’s because the existing data was primarily created and mapped by scuba divers and light aircraft. So instead, he wondered, could reefs be mapped and monitored from space using new micro satellites?  
Paul Allen scuba diving in the 1980s.
View of the Allen Coral Atlas which is open-source and available to all.
Paul Allen scuba diving in the 1980s.
View of the Allen Coral Atlas which is open-source and available to all.
The answer was a resounding yes. And the result was the Allen Coral Atlas — a game-changing, coral conservation tool developed in 2018 in partnership with coral reef scientists, universities, NGOs, and private entities. The atlas provides the first-ever, regularly updated, high-resolution maps of all the world’s coral reefs. It’s built using satellite imagery and advanced machine learning analytics with regional methodology that’s verified in the field by scientists. The maps include vital information, like depth and turbidity, and decipher a plethora of key geological and biological features.

With so many of the world’s reefs in danger, the Allen Coral Atlas gives the conservation community the ability to be proactive rather than reactive. Its unprecedented level of detail provides researchers, conservationists, and policymakers with the tools they need. Now they can monitor coral reef health, see where corals are successfully adapting to climate change, and react more quickly to bleaching events. The project was completed in 2021, is now managed by the same team of scientists and engineers at Arizona State University who helped create it, and provides the first-ever, comprehensive map of the world’s shallow reefs.

The impact is nothing short of staggering. By creating a dedicated, global coral observatory where anyone can zoom in on any reef — at high resolution — Paul’s efforts are providing new insights that continue to empower new coral conservation efforts around the world to this day. In 2021 the Allen Coral Atlas was completed, and you can view the maps and datasets here
The Museum of Pop Culture opened in 2000 and over the years evolved into a hands-on museum experience celebrating all forms of popular culture and creative expression.
Allen Institutes
The Allen Institute and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence lead cutting-edge science and making groundbreaking discoveries in bioscience and artificial intelligence research.
Tech for Good
Tech for
Paul believed technology could be leveraged to protect our planet, wildlife, and resources, and improve the lives of people everywhere.
Seattle Seahawks
Pacific Northwest
Paul purchased the Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise in 1997, and since then the team has gone on to make three Super Bowl appearances.
Paul's name is, of course, synonymous with Microsoft, the company he co-founded with his friend Bill Gates, which changed the trajectory of modern computing.