Team Halo 2014: Emily Darling, Edd Hamill, Trisha Atwood, Quinn Olivier, Elizabeth Madin. Also part of the team but not shown: Brian Sullivan (the man behind the camera), Alastair Harbourne, Andy Goodwin.
Team Halo 2014: Emily Darling, Edd Hamill, Trisha Atwood, Quinn Olivier, Elizabeth Madin. Also part of the team but not shown: Brian Sullivan (the man behind the camera), Alastair Harbourne, Andy Goodwin.

Conservation drones and underwater street-view

Dr Elizabeth Madin recently co-ordinated with Dr. Trisha Atwood of The Global Change Institute at UQ, a research trip to Heron Island. The trip involved a diverse team – including a “Googler” from the US, Brian Sullivan, and Andy Goodwin from the UK/Aus-based group ConservationDrones.org. Team members also included individuals from Macquarie University, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Queensland, and the global conservation NGO The Wildlife Conservation Society.

Over the course of the week at Heron Island, the team worked on a few different, but interrelated, projects – all of which centre around the use of ‘grazing halos’ as a potential way of remotely monitoring aspects of coral reef ‘health’. (This ~80-sec video gives more details on that concept).

Developing low-cost, waterproof drones for use in ocean environments: The ultimate goal here is to develop the drones themselves and an open-source, best practices-type manual to serve as a toolkit to help other researchers, conservation practitioners and resource managers use drones to survey reefs and other marine environments.

Field trials of a new low-cost, one-person Underwater Street View method: Brian Sullivan brought along the one-man camera setup he’s been working on and trained Elizabeth Madin to use it in the field – the goal here is to enable individuals everywhere to be able to capture underwater street-view-style imagery for ingestion into existing Google platforms (e.g., Maps).

The role of predators in influencing ‘blue carbon’: Blue carbon is the sequestration of carbon by ocean plants and algae, and is emerging as a new avenue for combatting human-derived atmospheric carbon emissions – and thus climate change. The grazing halos may give us clues as to how predators can influence blue carbon, which is critical to understand in light of global overfishing of ocean predators.

Dr Elizabeth Madin won the Early Career Researcher of the Year Award for Science & Engineering in 2014.

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