Chris Clegueris a research scientist at the Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER) and leader ofthe dugong research at James Cook University in Australia. Chris also acts as international advisor to the United Nations’ Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation and management of dugongs and their seagrass habitats throughout their range. 

Chris has broad research interests in marine mammal population assessments, spatial ecology and conservation. His current research strongly focuses on the dugong (Dugong dugon).  Dr Cleguer’s research team currently focuses on developping novel approaches to assess dugong abundance, health, distribution, behaviourand habitat use, using new technologies such as aerial imagery, drones, biologging, and AI. 

Chris Cleguer is a strong advocate of research partnerships with First Nations communities. His work has led him to work with indigenous communities across many places in northern Australia, the Pacific-island region, and in south-east Asia. Chris also develops training programs to upskill indigenous land and sea rangers, local NGOs, and citizens to conduct their own monitoring studies. Chris also works very closely with members of state and federal governments in Australia and abroad to share the latest knowledge on dugong populations and ecology to inform management. 

Dr Cleguer completed his MSc in biological sciences at the University of Auckland and his PhD in co-tutellebetween James Cook University and University of Pierre and Marie (and its research branch IRD in NEw Caledonia) in 2015. During his PhD, he used aerial surveys, GPS-Argos tracking and GIS tools to build an evidence base to enhance the conservation and management of dugongs in New Caledonia at a range of spatial and temporal scales. His PhD and post-PhD work enhanced the understanding of dugong ecology in coral reef ecosystems.After his PhD, Chris worked in Western Australia to develop methods using drones to map dugongs at the local scale, before returning to JCU in 2022. 

Research Disciplines

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters
Other research outputs

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 13+ research outputs authored by Dr Christophe Cleguer from 2013 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - National Environmental Science Program 2 (NESP 2) - Marine and Coastal Hub (NESP MAC Hub)

NESP 3.10 ? A partnership approach to filling key knowledge gaps on dugongs in northern Australia using novel technologies

Indicative Funding
$331,768 over 3 years (administered by Reef and Rainforest Research Centre)
In Australia, the dugong is protected under the EPBC Act 1999 as a listed migratory, and listed marine species, it is also a Matter of National Environmental Significance. The dugong is culturally significant to the coastal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of northern Australia and has a high biodiversity value. This project includes five activities that will contribute to addressing key knowledge gaps about the spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution, abundance, connectivity and health of dugong populations. The project is designed to inform management in several regions of high value habitat across northern Australia. Transversal to the activities described below is a strong partnership approach with Traditional Owners and members of the wider community. The project will be co-designed, co-produced and will co-deliver research and monitoring outputs. The studies will utilise and advance emerging technologies (e.g., aerial images collected from planes and drones, Artificial Intelligence, population genomics) with the ultimate goal of enhancing data quality, reducing research and monitoring costs, and increasing accessibility of monitoring tools to non-experts.
Christophe Cleguer, Rachel Groom and Holly Raudino (TropWater, Charles Darwin University, Department of Biodiversity and Conservation and Attractions)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial surveys; Conservation and management; Drones; Indigenous engagement; Genetics

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Contract Research

Dugong aerial survey to assess recovery in Hervey Bay

Indicative Funding
$71,818 over 1 year
Early 2022 floods in the Hervey Bay region have had a severe impact on seagrass meadows. Dugong mortality records combined with our late 2022 dugong aerial survey suggest that while some dugongs perished as a result of food deprivation, other likely have moved away from the Hervey Bay-GSS area while those that remained in the area have concentrated around the middle of Hervey Bay, over remaining deep-water seagrasses. While the deep seagrasses appear to be on their way to recovery there is still uncertainty as to whether and how seagrasses would recover in the inshore intertidal areas, and whether dugongs are going to repopulate the region as a result (no dugongs were sighted across the entire Great Sandy Strait in late 2022). Here, we propose to resurvey the Hervey Bay-GSS region to document the recovery of dugongs and sea turtles in the area. The timing of the surveys will be discussed and aligned with seagrass monitoring research.
Christophe Cleguer (TropWater)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial Surveys; conservation and management; Aerial Imagery; Artificial Intelligence

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Contract Research

Enhancing AI detection of dugong and other marine megafauna species

Indicative Funding
$45,455 over 1 year
Standardised aerial surveys have been conducted across northern Australia for over three decades to monitor dugong populations. JCU is currently monitoring dugongs across the entire eastern Queensland coast using conventional observer survey approach. In parallel to the monitoring work, JCU is experimenting the use of aerial images to conduct these large scales surveys. Preliminary results from the image processing work reveals that substantial efforts need to be put in to streamline and fast-track the processing of large image datasets to make imagery survey a cost-effective approach in the future. An AI for detecting dugongs is available but was developed based on images collected in Western Australian waters, a different habitat compared to eastern Queensland inshore waters. Preliminary tests ran by our team suggest that the current AI requires additional research work to improve its level of precision while other competitive AIs also need to be investigated. Upon completion of our tests, our team will outline steps toward the improvement of the current AI and/or exploration of alternative methods with the end goal of producing an automated approach that fast-tracks the processing of large image datasets collected during large-scale marine wildlife surveys.
Christophe Cleguer and Mohammad Jahanbakht (TropWater)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial Surveys; Conservation and Management; Aerial Imagery; Artificial Intelligence

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Contract Research

Using new technologies to assess the health, connectivity and movements of dugongs in northern Australia

Indicative Funding
$63,636 over 1 year
In this study we propose to: Activity 1. Dugong genomic work i.e., facilitate the collection of dugong samples in collaboration with Indigenous groups and create capacity to analyse samples from stranded dugongs. Activity 2. Dugong body condition work i.e., facilitate the collection of close-up aerial images of dugong in collaboration with Indigenous groups. Activity 3. Dugong tracking apparatus testing to enable the longer and safer tracking of dugongs to better understand the evolution in their inshore-offshore habitat use/large scale movements/movements as result of stress (including areas used at night).
Christophe Cleguer (TropWater)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial surveys; Conservation and management; Aerial Imagery; Artificial Intelligence

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Traditional Owner Healing Country Grant

Applying Indigenous and western science knowledges to inform the sustainable management of a dugong and seagrass hotspot in the Girringun TUMRA

Indicative Funding
$52,776 over 2 years (administered by Girringun Aboriginal Corporation)
Girringun Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) are deeply concerned about potential threats and reduced resilience for the coastal environment. This project will address knowledge gaps around dugongs and seagrasses that are core to Traditional Owner?s cultural identity and traditional values; critical to the cultural, natural, socio-economic values of the Girringun Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement (TUMRA) and Indigenous Protected Area, the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Hinchinbrook Island Dugong Protection Area. This project is a collaboration between GAC, seagrass and dugong experts from James Cook University, and Charles Darwin University to heal the Reef.
Christophe Cleguer and Rachel Groom (TropWater and Charles Darwin University)
Seagrass; Great Barrier Reef; TUMRA; Traditional Owner; Dugong; Monitoring

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Reef Trust Partnership

Monitoring the distribution and abundance of dugongs (and in-water, large marine turtles) within the GBRWHA using a combined aerial observer and imagery approach

Indicative Funding
$895,529 over 2 years
This project aims to: (1) to monitor the trends in the abundance and distribution of dugongs within the GBRWHA and (2) contribute to the transition to the use of novel imagery survey technologies to enhance survey methods and accuracy in abundance estimates. The project will be conducted in five main stages which will include: the development of a Traditional Owners engagement strategy and the drafting and submitting regulatory permit applications (stage 1), the development of the survey design and data collection protocols and undertake observer training (stage 2), conduct the dugong observer surveys and imagery experimental work within the GBRWHA (stage 3) and the production of a final report including summary of all survey report findings and advice about the implications of the findings for the conservation and management of dugongs and large marine turtles within the GBRWHA (stage 4).
Christophe Cleguer, Helene Marsh, Amanda Hodgson, Robert Rankin and Mike Swaine (TropWater, Research Division, Murdoch University, Thomson Reuters - Canada and Aeroglobe)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial surveys; Conservation and management; Aerial imagery; Indigenous engagement

Ecological Society of Australia - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

Investigating the behavioural ecology of diving and feeding in a cryptic marine mammal: the Dugong

Indicative Funding
$5,920 over 1 year
As air-breathing, bottom-feeding marine mammals, dugongs must dive to survive and thrive. Quantifying the diving and feeding behaviours of dugongs in three dimensions is a missing link in the science basis for the conservation of this Vulnerable species. This project will use advanced sensing technology to understand how seagrass biomass and dugong activity and energetics influence their diving and feeding behaviors. The resultant improved fine-scale understanding of these behaviors will provide important new information about their risk from vessel strike and the potential energetic consequences of habitat loss associated with extreme weather events and human disturbance.
Renae Lambourne, Helene Marsh, Christophe Cleguer and Mark Hamann (College of Science & Engineering, Research Division and TropWater)
Dugong dugon; Movement behaviour; Diving behaviour; biologging

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Contract Research

Aerial dugong surveys in Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay.

Indicative Funding
Dugong aerial surveys estimating population size have been conducted in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) since the 1980?s, providing a long-term trend and dataset. Aerial surveys are intended to be conducted every 5 years. The southern GBR was last surveyed in 2016, meaning the southern GBR surveys are 1 year overdue. Recent flooding in southeast Queensland has led to seagrass die off in Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Straits and likely in other seagrass habitat that supports dugong. The southern GBR dugong population includes Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay, both of which are significant locations for dugongs. Both of these bays suffered significant floods in early 2022. Seagrass surveys of Hervey Bay in May 2022 revealed `almost no seagrass was left?. It is anticipated that, as occurred after the 2011 floods, dugong will strand and die, stop breeding and move out of previously important foraging areas. Further, surveys will contribute to the transition from human observer flights to aerial image capture and automated analysis, which will form the basis of future cheaper and safer technologies for assessing dugong populations.
Christophe Cleguer in collaboration with Helene Marsh (TropWater)
Dugongs; Great Barrier Reef; Aerial Surveys

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Consultancy

Implementation Plan for Dugong Population Surveillance in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

Indicative Funding
There are evidences of dugongs declining in the southern Great Barrier Reef (sGBR) and monitoring is overdue. New technologies such as aerial imagery could enhance the survey of dugongs in the sGBR but an implementation plan needs to be developed to review the latest advances in survey technology as well as knowledge gaps, to better advise on the most adequate way to survey dugongs in the sGBR in the next surveys.
Christophe Cleguer in collaboration with Helene Marsh, Amanda Hodgson and Robert Rankin (TropWater, Research Division, Murdoch University and Thomson Reuters - Canada)
Dugongs (Dugong dugon); Monitoring; Conservation

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Using Population Genomics approaches to identify Dugong Populations and their level of Connectivity across Northern Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Investigating the fine-scale behavioural ecology of dugongs. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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