NASA helps out with research on the Great Barrier Reef

SOMETIMES you just need to take a look from further away.

Queensland researchers took something more than a bird's eye view with its studies of the Great Barrier Reef, enlisting help from NASA satellites.

Images from the space agency were then examined to work out the quality of water as it runs off the land and into the sea.

The view helps James Cook University experts understand how flood plumes - the combination of mud, fertilisers and pesticides - reach the ocean, how long they take and how long they last.

JCU researcher Dr Caroline Petus said the photos showed a "long-term window" for understanding changes in water quality within the Great Barrier Reef's coastal waters.

The two studies from Dr Petus and co-authors may also help show the changing health of seagrass beds.

Maps showing the river plumes could soon be developed.

A better understanding of these plumes may ultimately lead to scientists having a better understanding of how best to protect the reef.