What is going on underwater?  It is always good to look at what is happening around Australia and our Tropical colleagues are coming up with innovative ways to look at above and below the water line.

Fish being 'snapped' by underwater camera

Fish being ‘snapped’ by underwater camera

TropWATER is using video applications across a wide range of projects to develop an understanding of tropical freshwater, estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems in Australia. The application of new technologies has seen novel and informative filming in waterways. 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.

Brendan Ebner, James Donaldson and Jason Schaffer from the Freshwater Ecology Group are collaborating with key researchers from a range of institutions (Murdoch University, Australian National University, and Griffith University) in using baited and un-baited cameras to survey fishes and aquatic reptiles in rivers of the Pilbara, Kimberley, Gulf of Carpentaria and Wet Tropics. This research is pioneering the use of video for surveys of fish, crayfish and aquatic reptiles in Australia.

Waltham camera set up_250x200

Nathan Waltham camera set up

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.

Cassie James and Damien Burrows have commenced aerial filming of riparian habitat as part of rapid assessments of invasive riparian and in-stream aquatic weeds in the Russell River, in the Wet Tropics region. This work is being supported by underwater video surveys of fish assemblages comparing heavily weeded and weed-free sections of riverbank.

We will keep you up to date with this technology as we may start using it down south to investigate our riparian areas and the life in our waterways.


Excerpt from TropWATER Newsletter August 2015