Barrow Island lies approximately 1300 km north of Perth and 88 km north of the coastal town of Onslow in the Pilbara. The island was gazetted as an “A Class” Reserve in 1910, which denotes its importance as a refuge for threatened fauna, particularly mammals and sea turtles. The island also supports a major LNG production facility, managed by Chevron Australia. As part of their operations, Chevron Australia monitor their impacts on wildlife, and have accumulated biological and environmental datasets over several decades. Chevron Australia is currently investigating the use of a solar camera system to learn more about nesting success of flatback turtles on Barrow Island. Cameras are deployed 7 m above the ground and are situated to capture nesting females and hatchlings in their field of view and run continuously day and night. One camera was trialled from November 2022 to March 2023, and it is anticipated that additional cameras will be deployed over the 2023-2024 summer nesting season. The 2022/3 camera video imagery will be made available.
The images require analysis which will assist in answering a number of questions around sea turtle nesting behaviour and hatching success such as:
- What is the number of nesting females in a season?
- What is the level of nesting success?
- What is the rate of predation on turtle hatchlings?
- What are the main predators (e.g. goannas, seabirds?)
- Are there any visible environmental cues that initiate nest eruption?
In addition, Chevron Australia is working with an artificial intelligence (AI) partner to automate image analysis. The answers to the sorts of questions posed above, will assist in validating the AI outputs, as well as verifying empirical data collected by turtle monitoring teams. Depending on the initial findings, there is potential scope to further explore the accuracy of the AI analysis, and how this could be used to analyse the imagery of an expanding dataset as new cameras are added. As a final outcome of this project, the successful candidate will plan the placement and deployment of the 2023/4 cameras so as to maximise the capturing of important parameters identified in this study.
This project will suit a student enrolled in a Masters of Marine Biology, or Masters of Biological Science (coursework and dissertation streams). Experience with sea turtle fieldwork and strong quantitative skills are both highly desirable. This project is to be executed as a full CEED project.
The objectives of the Project are to:
- Conduct literature review to support hypothesis and methodology development,
- Review historical Terminal Beach video imagery to identify range of questions
- Analyse the 2022/3 video imagery (or agreed component) to answer the questions, and provide confidence in the validity of the AI and empirical datasets
- Develop 2023/24 monitoring methodology,
- Roll out 2023/2024 video imagery monitoring project and support with field based data collection,
- Review quality of 2023/4 video imagery to ensure correct data is being collected and evaluate data to meet project objectives,
- Develop thesis incorporating all aspects of literature review.