Marites Magno-Canto - AIMS@JCU

Marites Magno-Canto

College of Science and Engineering

Marites Magno-Canto

College of Science and Engineering
Developing benthic irradiance algorithm for the Great Barrier Reef shelf waters using MODIS satellite imagery

Marites completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology (Major in Marine Zoology) at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. Immediately after her degree, she joined The Marine Science Institute (MSI) as a research assistant and worked on several projects studying the physical oceanography of different water bodies around the Philippines.

She then finished her MSc. Marine Science (Physical Oceanography) degree at The University of the Philippines Diliman (as a part-time student and while still working in MSI) where she studied the entrainment potential in Philippine coastal waters. She quantifying the complexity or rugosity of Philippine coastlines and developed a tide model which she then used to determine a value that denotes the potential of different coastline configurations to entrain particles (e.g., fish or coral larvae and/or other passive particles). The results of her study provided insights in the design of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Philippines.

Prior to commencing her PhD, Marites was working as a research assistant at the University of Queensland where she gained experience in remote sensing and satellite oceanography. She also taught and worked as a tutor in Marine Science courses at UQ. Her working experience and collaborative exposure at UQ paved the way for her interest to engage in doing a project that is focused on understanding the physical interaction of light within the aquatic medium.

Developing benthic irradiance algorithm for the Great Barrier Reef shelf waters using MODIS satellite imagery

2016 to 2020

Project Description

The project aims develop a physics-based model that can be used to estimate benthic irradiance (e.g., photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) reaching the seafloor) within the GBR lagoon using satellite imagery. In addition, the project also aims to examine and describe the spatial and temporal variability of the benthic PAR in the GBR region for the last 16+ years. Finally, benthic PAR data will be used to determine regions within the GBR that are most vulnerable to reduced light conditions and thus provide additional insight that may be useful in designing management strategies of light-dependent benthic habitats within the GBR.

Project Importance

The availability of sufficient light (irradiance) is essential for photosynthesis, the foundation of all food webs and the dominant source of energy for corals and seagrasses. In the GBR and elsewhere, the transmittance of PAR through the water column to the seafloor is therefore critical to sustain benthic photosynthesis. Benthic PAR is regulated by the downwelling light field incident on the ocean surface and the optical properties of the water column which depends on atmospheric parameters and on both physical and biological coastal processes, respectively. Benthic PAR can be measured using light loggers moored to the seafloor but each only represents a discrete spatial point and thus, alone cannot resolve spatiotemporal variability in benthic PAR for the entire GBR, an area spanning 344,000 km2. This study will therefore bridge this gap by developing a suitable algorithm using satellite remote-sensing imagery that provides near-daily synoptic-scale images of the entire GBR. The resulting dataset will allow an opportunity for spatio-temporal variability in benthic light within the GBR to be investigated for the first time.

Project Methods

This project will mainly include:
• Remote sensing data processing
• Modeling and comparison of modeled benthic PAR with in situ measured benthic PAR for validation
• Quantitative data analyses

Project Results

This project will provide a novel satellite-derived benthic light dataset at a relevant spatial (i.e., regional GBR-wide) and temporal (i.e., daily, monthly or seasonal for the last 16+ years) scales needed to answer questions that will ultimately provide greater understanding of the benthic ecosystem and its ecology in the context of light availability and associated variability within the GBR shelf region.


Coastal development,
Coral reefs,
Management tools,
Quantitative marine science,
Remote Sensing,
Sea grass,
Seagrass beds,
Sediment dwellers,
Temporal change