News from the Field, Press Release

State grant to fund bioacoustic research on critically endangered Plains-wanderer

20 Sep. 2023
Geoff Jones

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) has secured $145,045 in state government funding to implement a search and monitoring program for threatened species on the North Australian Pastoral Company’s (NAPCo) Coorabulka Station in western Queensland.

Funds from the Queensland Government’s Threatened Species Research Grants program will be used to establish 60 monitoring stations across the 629,000 hectare cattle station, which will detect and record audio and image data for the critically endangered Plains-wanderer as well as the threatened Bilby and Kowari. Each station will be made up of advanced solar powered Bio-Acoustic Recorders (BARs) and cameras capable of 24-hour data recording over a 12-month period. Built by Frontier Labs, a specialist bioacoustics company based in south-east Queensland, the Solar BARs will be further modified to protect them from western Queensland’s large temperature variations and animal disturbances.

Once collected, the audio data will be analysed using an open-source recogniser currently in development with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and images will be analysed by AWC using AI technology. The analysed data will be used to describe the distribution and status of Plains-wanderer, Bilby and Kowari across Coorabulka Station. The data will also provide details on the distribution of cats, foxes, Dingoes, stocking rates, vegetation and land-condition which will allow AWC to explore the effect of these factors on the distribution on these threatened species.

 

The state grant will fund the purchase of advanced solar powered Bio-Acoustic Recorders (BARs) and cameras capable of 24-hour data recording over a 12-month period. Richard Seaton/AWC
The state grant will fund the purchase of advanced solar powered Bio-Acoustic Recorders (BARs) and cameras capable of 24-hour data recording over a 12-month period. Pictured: Anthony Dunn, NAPCo’s Sustainability Manager, setting up a solar BAR on Coorabulka Station.

 

Aled Hoggett, Regional Operations Manager, welcomed the funding. He expects the remote sensing equipment will provide much-needed data on the Plains-wanderer, Kowari and Bilby.

“Species such as the Plains-wanderer are super cryptic and largely active at night, making them difficult to monitor by conventional methods,” explained Aled. “There is just so much we don’t yet know about this elusive bird and Solar BARs will provide us with a large dataset that will improve our knowledge of the species, as well as the Bilby and Kowari.”

“Next year we hope to know more about the abundance of the three species and their activities, and help shape AWC’s approach to protecting them into the future,” said Allan Cooney, NAPCo Chief Executive.

 

Data collected from the remote sensing equipment will provide much-needed information on the Plains-wanderer, Kowari (pictured) and Bilby. Brad Leue/AWC
Data collected from the remote sensing equipment will provide much-needed information on the Plains-wanderer, Kowari (pictured) and Bilby.

 

AWC and NAPCo entered a landmark partnership in April 2022, to collaborate on positive, measurable outcomes for biodiversity across NAPCo’s six million hectare estate. During the initial year of the partnership, AWC deployed 10 audio monitors to confirm the presence of the Plains-wanderer and the cryptic Carpentarian Grasswren in the Channel Country. Earlier this year, another eight recorders were deployed in search of the Plains-wanderer at Coorabulka.

Currently, there are historical records for the Plains-wanderer at NAPCo’s Monkira (1983) and Glenormiston Stations (1984). While the species has never been recorded on Coorabulka, the station is modelled as suitable habitat and recent records from the adjacent Astrebla National Park gives confidence that they are highly likely to be present.

For more information on AWC’s partnership with NAPCo, click here.

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