Robots to the ResQu for Australia’s Rainforests

Robotics researchers at CSIRO, in partnership with Biosecurity Queensland, have succcessfully designed and trialed two autonomous helicopters, developed to detect threatening weed species in Australia’s rare and precious rainforests.

The project, dubbed Project ResQu, has executed trials in the El Arish Rainforest near Cairns, successfully detecting and mapping weed growth in remote areas otherwise inaccessible by man. The trial located growth of a number of noxious weeds, including Miconia Calvescens (or the ‘purple plague’) that had not previously been noticed in areas deep within the dense rainforest. The detection of these areas of growth has allowed for early intervention, and the weeds will be removed.

The new sophisticated imaging technology will make locating weeds faster and more reliable than ever, allowing for early eradication before they can cause irreversible damage to our native plant and wildlife populations.

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director, Dr Gary Fitt, said “In the biosecurity space effective surveillance is critical – we need to be able to detect incursions quickly and accurately. Technologies like the autonomous helicopter or other autonomous platforms provide us with another tool in the fight against these biological invasions […] The helicopters can navigate obstacles without human control while recording locations and images for biosecurity staff to scan for evidence of weeds.”

Queensland Science Minister Ian Walker said the robotic helicopter played a key role in protecting native flora from weeds, offering a money saving approach to boosting biosecurity and carrying out more effective mapping.

About Project ResQu:
Project ResQu is a two-year, $7M project led by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) in a collaborative project between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), CSIRO, Boeing and Insitu Pacific with the support of the Queensland State Government Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. Find out more here.

Fish Get Freaky Sooner As Ocean Heats Up

In an interesting new study by CSIRO, it has been found that the breeding patterns of various marine life are changing as ocean temperatures rise due to Global Warming.

Research has found that as the ocean’s surface temperatures rise, the breeding and migration times of various marine species have been advancing. It has been determined that on average, these patterns have been advancing at a rate of 4.4 days each decade, as opposed to an advance of between 2.3 – 2.8 days each decade for land based species.

Interesting also is that despite the ocean’s surface temperatures rising at a rate three times slower than land air temperatures, marine life are reacting to the effects at a significantly faster rate than terrestrial species.

It was also found that South-East tropical and subtropical species of fish, molluscs and plankton are shifting much further south through the Tasman Sea. And sea birds and various types of cool-water seaweeds have been shifting further south through the Indian Ocean from regions north of Perth.

CSIRO marine ecologist Dr Elvira Poloczanska said that “essentially, these findings indicate that changes in life events and distribution of species indicates we are seeing widespread re-organisation of marine ecosystems”. She explains the phenomenon further; “We expect marine organisms to have responded to recent climate change, with magnitudes similar to or greater than those found for terrestrial species.”

These shifts in behaviour may result in shifts in habitat areas, leading to significant repercussions for current recreational and commercial fishing areas, as well as new potential for other areas.

To read more about CSIRO’s study, click here.

What does the Reef mean to you?

CSIRO is currently conducting a study to determine what the Great Barrier Reef means to those who visit, live and work nearby.

The results will provide a valuable and interesting insight into people’s perceptions on the whole of the Great Barrier Reef, including marine tourism, traditional owners, ports and shipping, aquaculture, mining, residents and coastal communities.

The new social study is targeting approximately 5,000 residents along the Queensland coast between Cooktown and Bundaberg over the next two months. “Findings will provide information to reef managers, businesses and government to help them make decisions that reflect the needs of the people who interact with the reef” says CSIRO social scientist and project leader Dr Nadine Marshall.

If you live in these areas, keep an eye out for CSIRO representatives who will be approaching likely participants in public areas.

Results are to be published towards the end of the year.

To read more about the study, click here.