Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 22 March.
Title of Research: Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO) Nearshore Habitat Mapping
Applicant: Smithsonian Institution, Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network, MarineGEO Program
Species/Taxon: May disturb birds including seabirds and eagles, may disturb marine mammals and terrestrial mammals.
Location: Maria Island (-42.672780°, 148.069748°) and surrounding area.
Aim of project: The Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO), directed by the Smithsonian's Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network (TMON), is the first long-term, worldwide research program to focus on understanding coastal marine life and its role in maintaining resilient ecosystems around the world.
By specializing in coastal ecosystems—where marine biodiversity and people are concentrated and interact most—this initiative provides policymakers with the science to support innovative solutions and advance management and protection of our oceans. (marinegeo.si.edu)
- MarineGEO will be mapping habitat around Maria Island as part of a global comparison of the effects of marine protected areas compared to unprotected sites. We will be building on concurrent long-term research coordinated by the University of Tasmania and the Reef Life Survey project at Maria Island.
- Finished products include a detailed habitat map of the area around Maria Island and quantitative metrics of habitat position and extent. All data that are collected will be open to the public, and will be made available on the MarineGEO website or by request.
- By placing observations of plant and animal communities in context with the broader ecosystem (habitat maps), we will better understand the forces that structure these habitats and keep them healthy.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: No animals will be targeted for our surveys.
Activities undertaken and methods: Our surveys are non-extractive and are based on photographic data collected by small (<2kg) quadcopter drones. Drones will be launched from the shore to collect high-resolution photos of Maria Island marine habitats including seagrass, rocky reef, and sand flats. Finished products include detailed open-access habitat maps of the area around Maria Island that will be used in conjunction with Reef Life Survey fish community data to increase our knowledge of the spatial patterns of diversity in marine waters.
Fate of animals: No animals will be collected or intentionally harassed.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): The primary risk/concern for operating a drone in the park is disturbance of wildlife, particularly birds and marine mammals. In order to minimize disturbance of wildlife in the park, the drone will be operated at an elevation of 100m to reduce any noise or visual stress to mammals, and if any marine mammal is seen in the vicinity, the drone will be redirected to avoid any potential disturbance. A team member will serve as lookout for bird interactions, maintaining visual contact with the drone at all times. If a bird or group of birds approaches too close to the drone (within 100m), the flight will be terminated immediately and the drone recalled.