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Dugongs & Drones¦Online meeting
3 July, 7:30 pm-9:30 pm
Your RSVP is ESSENTIAL – you will then receive the Google Meet link with your confirmation email.
Our presenter at tonight’s ONLINE meeting will be Dr Amanda Hodgson, research fellow at the Harry Butler Institute at Murdoch University.
Amanda’s core research objective is to develop innovative methods and technologies to monitor and conserve marine megafauna (like dugongs, dolphins, whales and turtles) and their critical habitat. Throughout her career she has designed and conducted many aerial surveys to understand where these animals are, how many there are, and what constitutes important habitat. These surveys have traditionally been conducted by researchers flying in light aircraft, but the limitations and human risk involved in these surveys led Amanda, in 2007, to investigate the potential for using drones (unmanned aircraft) for fauna surveys.
Amanda partnered with Insitu Pacific Ltd (Boeing), who supplied military drones and an operational team for three years of field tests. Her research has shown that drone surveys provide more accurate and reliable data than traditional methods. Amanda is also in partnership with an artificial intelligence expert to develop an automated detection algorithm for processing drone images using deep learning, and with a photogrammetry expert to develop mapping tools that allow us to better understand the link between the distribution of the animals and their habitat.
Amanda’s research is largely centred on dugongs, a species that occurs throughout 46 countries in the Indo-Pacific, and is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN. Dugongs are an effective barometer for the rapidly disappearing seagrass meadows that form almost their entire diet. Amanda’s objective of developing innovative survey techniques is motivated by the need to develop research tools that are accessible and affordable in developing / under-developed countries that form a large proportion of the dugongs’ range.