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  • christophecleguer

Update on the aerial imagery work from the 2022 southern GBR dugong survey

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

It’s been a while since our last blog update, and we’ve had quite a journey since then. Following the conclusion of our survey of the southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in December of last year, we delved into analysing the data we had gathered. To our amazement, we had amassed a whopping 1.77 million images from our expedition across the central and southern sections of the GBR, as well as Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay.

As you may recall, our team had their hands full, diligently reviewing thousands of images during their downtime when not in the air. Upon returning to Townsville, we enlisted the assistance of six James Cook University students to continue this image review process, a necessary step before we could begin comparing these images to the animal sightings made by our aerial observers.

Our dedicated volunteers have been tirelessly working on image review, and as of now, we’ve manually assessed approximately 280,000 images. Among these images, we’ve identified nearly 9,000 instances of various marine animals, including dugongs, dolphins, turtles, sharks, rays and sea snakes.

The next steps involve the following:

1. Training various Artificial Intelligence models using our labelled data to work towards automating image processing in the future.

2. Comparing the observations made by our plane-based observers with the sightings identified in the imagery, with the goal of transitioning to an imagery-only survey in the future.

In the meantime we have just kicked off the northern GBR leg of our survey. We will keep you updated on our progress over the next 6-8 weeks as we continue our survey work!

This work is led by JCU-TropWATER, in collaboration with:


Liddle's Air Services

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services

Queensland Department of Environmental ScienceThe Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Edit Cowan University

The Australian Antarctic Division

This research is funded by:

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment

The Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program (NESP)

James Cook University - TropWATER

Research is conducted under James Cook University Animal Ethics A2798 and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Approval CSE148.

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