Andrew Colefax

PhD Project title: Developing the use of drones and related technologies for shark surveillance

White Shark picture taken with UAV

Principle Supervisor: Brendan Kelaher

Co-Supervisor: Paul Butcher

Research Summary: Unprovoked shark attacks along ocean beaches present many management challenges. Although shark attacks are rare, there has been a gradual increase in reported incidences. A recent spike in NSW, and subsequent media coverage, has escalated public fears and concerns. While it is possible to address perceptions of shark attack risk with traditional approaches (e.g. mesh nets and drumlines), these are often criticised because of their impacts on shark populations and other marine fauna. It is, therefore, widely acknowledged that there is genuine need for a reliable alternative that does not impact marine life. Drones may provide a solution to this intractable problem, however, its functionality for use as a shark management tool needs to be optimised. Therefore, I am critically assessing the utility of drones to sight sharks and other marine fauna, and investigating localised white shark movements along coastal beaches to develop more appropriate beach management responses following a shark detection. Additionally, I am researching pathways to improve fauna detectability in low contrasting conditions through spectral frequency band selection.