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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Drones tracking brumby damage

A UNSW Canberra researcher is using drones to track the erosion caused by brumbies in the Kosciuszko region.

Senior lecturer Dr David Paull’s research is producing 3D models of creek banks in the Australian Alps, monitoring numerous water courses through Kosciuszko National Park.

“I’m monitoring about 30 different water courses through Kosciuszko National Park and just into Victoria and the headwaters of the Murray River,” Dr Paull says.

“We are using precision surveying equipment with a drone. The 3D models that this technology enables us to build are geographically referenced down to millimetres. We can then go back and take repeat measurements year after year.”

Dr Paull says some of the sites have been “absolutely trashed”.

Senior Lecturer Dr David Paull is using drones to track erosion caused by wild horses in the Kosciuszko region. Photo: UNSW Canberra.

“Some of the sites along the Murray that I’m tracking are less than a metre wide, where the creek emerges as a trickle, and its being absolutely trashed,” Dr Paull says.

“So here we’ve got Australia’s iconic river, the headwaters of the Murray, and they are just a quagmire from horse impacts.”

Dr Paull presented his findings at The Kosciuszko Science Conference in Canberra on 8 November. He said the project will provide profound data like volumes of sediment and changes to the condition through pugging, which is difficult to quantify by other means.

“At the end of the project I’ll be able to talk about horse impacts in terms of the widening zone, the trample impact and we’ll even be able to count individual puggings – or footprints – and quantify that through time.”

The conference brought together scientists to discuss the NSW 2018 Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act, enacted earlier this year, which provides protection for the animals. The controversial legislation was condemned by many scientific and conservation groups.

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts