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Citizen science unoccupied aerial vehicles: A technique for advancing coastal data acquisition for management and research
journal contributionposted on 2022-09-29, 03:00 authored by Daniel IerodiaconouDaniel Ierodiaconou, D M Kennedy, N Pucino, B M Allan, R J McCarroll, L W Ferns, R C Carvalho, K Sorrell, C Leach, M Young
Coasts are highly dynamic systems. Understanding how they respond to individual storms events and to future climate change is difficult as local boundary conditions determines their evolutionary trajectory. A lack of field data at this local scale therefore limits the ability of managers and researchers to apply existing modelling frameworks to their region of interest to ensure preservation of the natural environment. Data acquisition through low-cost Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has become a viable means for obtaining high-resolution surveys (cm-scale) on the coast for whole sediment compartments (km-scale). A continued limitation however is the intensive labour costs involved in data acquisition. Here we show the power of Citizen Science in providing high quality, cost-effective data collection, when provided with adequate training and resources along a high-energy, temperate coast in Victoria, Australia. This was conducted through the Victorian Coastal Monitoring Program (VCMP), formed in 2018 as a collaboration between Australian universities and the Victorian State Government. As of 2022, this program covered 28 sites, with over 450 individual surveys taken at 6–8 week intervals. The VCMP has guided and driven significant management actions on the coast from realignment of coastal walking paths for public safety to measuring sand renourishment success. In this paper we (i) present the Citizen Science UAV program methodology, as an example that can be replicated in other jurisdictions, and (ii) illustrate, through a case-study of a sandy beach and rocky cliff, the benefits and precision achievable using our Citizen Science approach. We outline how outputs can be made widely available and applied to coastal management, with the aid of data portals and decision support systems. This data accessibility has been central to our community engagement, enabling citizen scientists to conduct their own bespoke analysis for co-creation of management solutions for their local area. It was also found to be key for facilitating continued community engagement during one of the world's longest lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the program for almost two years.