Novel use of underwater video for research
A CCTV camera system with a real-time monitor, towed from a research vessel provides live footage for observations and recording. The system incorporates a mounted camera, sled and sled net to capture surface benthos (semi-quantitative bottom sample) and is used to confirm benthic macro-invertebrates, algal and seagrass habitat characteristics observed on the monitor.
This technology was developed by Mark Leith, who has led the way in engineering solutions to collect high resolution and foul-free imagery. The permanent camera systems enable tracking of changing seagrass communities in relation to environmental parameters. This is especially advantageous under inhospitable conditions including poor weather, which inhibit boat access in open water environments.
The Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Group are using underwater video for a range of fish and habitat projects. Videos have
been used to investigate predator hotspots and deep water estuarine habitats in tropical Australia, with a major focus on mangrove habitats, increasing our understanding of the extent of penetration of fish species and assemblages into the mangrove forests in relation to tidal level. Similar work is being done in freshwater and estuarine systems in PNG.
There are also new projects underway. Nathan Waltham is examining the organisation of freshwater fish assemblages in dry seasonal waterholes by deploying baited cameras. During the wet season flow each year, freshwater fish escape the confines of discrete dry river system waterholes and access habitats necessary for completing their life-cycles, awaiting the next wet season and the waterway reconnection. Understanding these fundamental processes in waterholes in dry river systems will assist planning decisions relating to agricultural development proposed in northern Australia. As flow ceases, waterholes are left with a new fish assemblage that must again survive the impending dry season.
The Freshwater Ecology Group collaborated with the Ewamian Rangers and researchers from the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, to perform a rapid survey of aquatic fauna at Tallaroo Station (Gulf of Carpentaria). This included using baited cameras to assess fish assemblage composition. Tallaroo has recently been handed over to the Ewamina People and this provided a privileged opportunity for ecologists to learn about some of the cultural heritage and history of those lands.
Starrs, D., Ebner, B. C., & Fulton, C. J. (2015). Ceasefire: minimal aggression among Murray River crayfish feeding upon patches of allochthonous material. Australian Journal of Zoology.
Ebner, B. C., Starrs, D. Morgan, D. L., Fulton, C. J. Donaldson, J. A., Doody, S., Cousins, S., Kennard, M., Butler, G., Tonkin, Z., Beatty, S., Broadhurst, B., Clear, R. and Fletcher, C. (2014). The emergence of underwater video for field based study of freshwater fish and crustacean ecology in Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia
Ebner, B. C., Fulton, C. J., Donaldson, J. A., Cousins, S., Mecynecke, J-O., Schaffer J. & Kennard, M. J. (2014). Filming and Snorkelling as Mobile Visual Techniques to Survey Tropical Rainforest Stream Fauna. Marine and Freshwater Research
Ebner, B. C. & Morgan D. L. (2013). Using remote underwater video to estimate freshwater fish species richness. Journal of Fish Biology 82, 1592–1612.
Fulton, C. J, Starrs, D., Ruibal, M. P. & Ebner, B. C. (2012). Counting crayfish: active searching and baited cameras trump conventional hoop netting in detecting Euastacus armatus. Endangered Species Research 19, 39–45.
Ebner, B., Clear, R., Godschalx, S., & Beitzel, M. (2009). In-stream behaviour of threatened fishes and their food organisms based on remote video monitoring. Aquatic Ecology 43, 569–576.