Experts share new solutions to overcome the north’s tough environment

9 May 2016

A number of Australia’s top experts in emerging environmental monitoring methods involving drones, underwater cameras and novel uses of DNA have brought their expertise to Darwin.
The researchers shared their insights at a workshop as part of a Hub project investigating a range of high tech solutions to monitor northern Australia’s challenging landscapes.

“Managing environmental resources requires a sound understanding of how land, water and biodiversity are changing over time,” Project leader, Charles Darwin University Associate Professor Dr Alison King said.

“However this is made even more challenging in northern Australia, where remote areas are frequently isolated and inaccessible during the wet season. Crocodiles, cyclones and flooding only add to our region’s complexities.”

Dr King says researchers are always looking for more effective and efficient ways of monitoring the biodiversity and ecosystems of the north.

“Drones, for example, are a relatively cheap way of allowing us to cover large areas of inaccessible terrain,” she said.

“Cutting-edge ideas relating to aquatic biodiversity monitoring are also worth investigating. The presence of rare, threatened or exotic species can now be detected from the DNA they leave behind in the environment, while underwater cameras allow us to monitor freshwater species without disturbing them.”

The two-day workshop held in Darwin in May brought together both relevant experts and those who will implement the techniques, including state and territory government managers and scientists, Natural Resource Management groups, Indigenous rangers, and land managers.

One of the research experts Dr Renee Bartolo from eriss holds a drone (1)

One of the research experts Dr Renee Bartolo from eriss holds a drone

It was an opportunity for attendees to not only learn about the latest monitoring techniques, but to discuss their potential limitations in northern Australia and the research needed to implement them.

The workshop comes on the back of results from a survey of research users about their current monitoring practices.

“The survey showed there is significant interest from organisations across the north in emerging environmental monitoring technologies,” Dr King said.

“Research users suggested that their current monitoring programs were significantly challenged by lack of funding, challenging and vast landscapes, and a harsh climate; and were therefore very interested in what these new technologies may be able to provide to them”

The research findings will be published later this year.

You can view a number of the presentations made by researchers here:

Presentation: Camera Traps for Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring in northern Australia

Presentation: Underwater video for surveying fauna

Presentation: Using animal audio for species detection

Presentation: RPAS for environmental monitoring in northern Australia

Presentation: DNA-based methods for indirect estimation of population size and individual body condition

Presentation: Emerging remote environmental monitoring techniques

Presentation: Tracing water sources and greenhouse gases using field-based stable isotope techniques

Presentation: Otoliths (fish ear stone): natural recorders of change in aquatic environments

Presentation: Environmental DNA – Forensic DNA detection of aquatic species and profiling of entire biological communities

Top image: miniature boat monitors aspect of water quality, credit: eriss

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