Issue 8
Monday, 23 May 2016
Charles Darwin University
Emerging environmental monitoring methods were explored at a workshop in Darwin this month
Emerging environmental monitoring methods were explored at a workshop in Darwin this month

Innovation tackles North’s tough environment

By Briena Barrett

Emerging environmental monitoring methods involving drones, underwater cameras and novel uses of DNA were explored at a workshop in Darwin this month.

Led by Charles Darwin University Associate Professor Alison King, the workshop saw a number of the country’s top researchers share their expertise in 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,” Dr 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 is leading a project as part of the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub to investigate a number of new techniques to overcome these constraints.

“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.

The two-day workshop brought together both experts in a range of techniques and those who will put them into practice, such as state and territory government scientists, Indigenous rangers and other land managers.

“It was an opportunity for attendees to not only learn about the latest monitoring techniques, but also to discuss their potential limitations in Northern Australia,” Dr King said.

“Interesting discussion points were raised at the workshop. For example, a number of participants were interested in the possibility of developing a DNA database of key species in Northern Australia, and developing standardised methodologies for using the new techniques, while others expressed interest in using drones or satellites to monitor unwanted chemicals or weeds in the environment.”

The project is supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.