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Environmental research projects take flight

By Briena Barrett

Hub Leader Professor Michael Douglas (centre) holds an octocopter, which was demonstrated at the launch by Tim Whiteside and Krissy Breed from the Supervising Scientist Hub Leader Professor Michael Douglas (centre) holds an octocopter, which was demonstrated at the launch by Tim Whiteside and Krissy Breed from the Supervising Scientist

Scientists will embrace the latest technology to monitor environmental changes in Northern Australia as part of a new research project being led by Charles Darwin University.

The project is one of 10 funded under the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Mr Bob Baldwin and Federal Member for Solomon Ms Natasha Griggs joined Hub leader Professor Michael Douglas at Casuarina campus last week to mark the start of the research.

Professor Douglas said researchers from the hub would trial a range of new approaches to environmental monitoring.

“Monitoring the environment in the North is not an easy task,” Professor Douglas said. “The areas to monitor are vast and remote and there’s only a small number of people available to do the job, and the wet season floods and crocodile-infested waters make it even more challenging.

“Our researchers will turn to high-tech solutions, such as drones, that will be flown over forests and coastlines to photograph and map changes in sensitive vegetation, while remote controlled mini-boats will monitor aspects of water quality.”

Other projects include research on waste and marine debris in remote communities, the role of feral cats in small mammal decline, and incorporating Top End Indigenous fire knowledge into fire management.

CDU leads the hub, in partnership with researchers from James Cook University, the University of Western Australia, Griffith University, CSIRO, and Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian government agencies.