A neighbourly remote sensing workshop on the Great Barrier Reef

Dr Sarah Hamylton is Senior Lecturer at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Sarah’s research focuses on developing models to better explain and predict characteristics of tropical coastal environments (e.g. habitats and landforms).

WICGE committee member Dr Sarah Hamylton shares her experience on sharing international perspectives and learning from each other.

Australia is a world leader in coral reef environmental stewardship. As coral reef scientists based in Australia, we have a responsibility to share both insights and technical skills that could help with reef management with our regional neighbours.

Indonesia is a neighbour to Australia, but I see an imbalance in both the sheer abundance of the natural resources to be cared for, and the national capacity for doing so. The Great Barrier Reef is made up of around 3000 coral reefs, whereas Indonesia has over 50,000 coral reefs. Some of the most biodiverse reefs in the world, these are spread over a much larger area and vulnerable to a wider suite of threats, including significant infrastructure development pressure and dynamite fishing.

To be neighbourly is to be helpful, kind and supportive to those in your vicinity. This was the spirit adopted for a recent workshop I hosted on the Central Great Barrier Reef with support from the Australian Academy of Sciences’ Regional Collaboration Program.

It all started in Canberra in December 2016. I had been invited by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg to give a talk at the Australia- Indonesia Science Symposium at the Australian Academy of Sciences. On the first evening, I met Dr Nani Hendiarti (Director of Maritime Science and Technology, Ministry for Maritime Affairs) and Dr Nurjannah Nurdin (Director of the Research Centre for Regional Development and Spatial Information, Hasanuddin University). We discussed remote sensing, fieldwork and our shared passions for aerial surveys of coastal environments.

Canberra 2016 meeting with Dr Nani Hendiarti (Director of Maritime Science and Technology, Ministry for Maritime Affairs) and Dr Nurjannah Nurdin (Director of the Research Centre for Regional Development and Spatial Information, Hasanuddin University)

The next day Nurjannah and I gave a joint presentation about the national coral reef remote sensing programs in Australia and Indonesia. Our talk was very well received, thanks largely to Ove, who encouraged us to plan our presentation together ahead of time, and seek each other out at the Symposium to further discuss our ideas. From that meeting, our shared vision of conducting aerial surveys of the Great Barrier Reef and Spermonde archipelago emerged.

The following month the Regional Collaborations Program funded us to bring Nurjannah and a team of students over for The Central Great Barrier Reef Coral Reef mapping workshop. This was a week-long collaborative field workshop run by the University of Wollongong (Australia) and Hasanuddin University (Indonesia), in collaboration with the University of Queensland.

Fifteen participants visited four sites in the Central Great Barrier Reef between the 3rd and 10th June, 2018. These were Three Isles, Two Isles, Nymph Island and Low Wooded Island.

Participants of the Central Great Barrier Reef mapping workshop in front of the Kalinda Boat

At each of these sites, aerial drone images, underwater video footage and ground cover photographs were collected to assist with mapping the terrestrial and marine environments. A daily mapping workshop covered skills such as remote sensing (theory and practice), conducting drone surveys (aerial planning and ground control), pre-processing and classifying satellite images, map accuracy assessment, ground truthing, digital shoreline analysis and spatial regression. We shared stories, expertise and insights in a stimulating two-way exchange.

In an interview half way through the trip, Nurjannah noted:

“This is a great moment for us, and for Hassanudun University. Sarah has invited us to conduct a workshop and it is very exciting and unusual for us to go directly to the field, by the afternoon we can see the data that has been collected and discuss the image processing. I was able to choose six of the best students in spatial analysis and remote sensing and bring them with me.”

Drone lesson, Nymph Island

Masters and PhD student participants are now incorporating skills covered into their projects in the Spermonde Archipelago (Indonesia), with ongoing guidance from me. I plan to visit their field site next year.

Sarah and Nurjannah, Two Isles

Find out more about Sarah here and visit her blog. You can also follower her on Twitter @Shamylto.


Posted on: 03/09/2018, by :