27 November 2018

Thanks the generosity of our donors, QUT researchers are making significant steps in developing innovative technologies to protect Australia’s environment and our wildlife.

QUT scientists are working hard to save our greatest national treasure – the Great Barrier Reef – through innovative projects including Virtual Reef Diver and the Reef RangerBot.

The Virtual Reef Diver project allows members of the public to work alongside marine scientists, from the comfort of their home computer, to classify underwater images of the reef, for the very first time.

Diver cataloging images of the reef for Virtual Reef Diver

“The results of this project will help to give marine scientists and reef managers the information they need to make critical decisions about the reef’s future. It will also lay the groundwork for creating an up-to-date and comprehensive map of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cover,” said project leader Dr Erin Peterson.

QUT’s reef protector robot, RangerBot, which monitors reef health indicators like coral bleaching, water quality, and pests like the Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) will soon become a ‘mother’ to hundreds of millions of baby corals in a special delivery coinciding with November’s annual coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Matthew Dunbabin with reef protecting robot, Rangerbot

In a world first, QUT’s underwater robot has been transformed into LarvalBot by QUT’s robotics team, led by Professor Matthew Dunbabin.

Large volumes of coral spawn will be captured and transferred into fine mesh pools for almost a week until the larvae is ready to be re-settled.

The project aims to restore damaged parts of the Great Barrier Reef and speed up the recovery of ecosystems affected by coral bleaching.

“I am passionate about protecting the reef in any way I can and extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with world leaders in coral reef restoration,” said Professor Dunbabin.

“We aim to have two or three robots ready for the November spawn. One will carry about 200,000 larvae and the other about 1.2 million.”

Other innovative work being done by QUT’s scientists is working to protect the future of another national treasure – the koala.

QUT researchers are using drones in a high-tech effort to find and protect koalas in South East Queensland.

With the number of koalas across Queensland and New South Wales in rapid decline, they’re facing extinction due to the devastating impact of tree-clearing.

QUT's Dr Sandra Johnson and Dr Grant Hamilton with one of the koala-detecting drones

“Through the use of drones we will be able to better locate our native fauna, and get more accurate estimates of their abundance that we need to make effective conservation decisions,” said Dr Grant Hamilton.

QUT alumni, staff and the community have generously supported the development of these technologies, through QUT alumni appeals and the inaugural QUT Giving Day 2018. Design enhancements of the user interface for the RangerBot were enabled through gifts from the Dalio Foundation and Eldon and Anne Foote Trust to test its predecessor, the COTSbot, in the hands of non-tech savvy users.

To find out more visit QUT Giving.

Professor Matthew Dunbabin with reef protecting robot, Rangerbot