Updated: Aug 14
Shy, mysterious and elusive, Bribie's dugongs are the focus of BIEPAs latest citizen science project. On this World Oceans Day, we're celebrating the release of the the first maps compiled by the Dugong Diaries Project team from sightings provided by members of our community.
Launched in April this year, the Dugong Diaries Project harnesses the power of community networks to collect valuable base-line information on the seasonal habits of our local population of this enigmatic threatened species.
Listed as Vulnerable both globally by the IUCN and locally by the Queensland Government, the dugongs of Moreton Bay face threats that include poor water quality, boat strike and loss of their food source, seagrass meadows. Photo © Yoka Dolman
EVERY DUGONG COUNTS
Through our Bribie Island Dugong Sightings Facebook Group, any community member can contribute to important scientific research by simply posting their dugong encounters. At latest count the Facebook Group has attracted over 260 members!
We ask observers for location, date, time, number of animals in the group, notable behaviours, and preferably a photo .... even a really bad photo helps! If you don't use social media no worries... you can email us your observations. We're also very keen to receive historical sightings, so please send them in if you have them. All the pre-April 2023 records you'll see in the Facebook Group have been uncovered by volunteers mining other local social media groups. Once an observation is posted, more volunteer effort kicks-in, with dedicated team members entering the info provided into our database, along with additional tidal and pre-sighting rainfall data via the BOM. Data collected is being channelled to Queensland University's own 'dugong detective' Dr Janet Lanyon. Dr Lanyon will use the observations to inform an extension of her critical research into the population dynamics and health of the dugongs of Moreton Bay, to animals in Pumicestone Passage and surrounding waters.
Our first map compiles all the dugong sightings data collected in one convenient place, including any historical observations we have been able to find.
Each month of the year will also be mapped, and over coming years these maps will help to tell the story of our dugong's seasonal habits.
DATA AND OBSERVATION EFFORT Citizen Science projects such as the Dugong Diaries (and the well established and independently owned Bribie Island Dolphin Sightings group) will only tell part of the story about how a given species' uses our waters. Casual observations from community members will always be skewed towards the places and times that people are out and about, but we are gaining traction with various users of our waterways – including commercial fishers and dragon boat paddlers, who are beginning to regularly provide observations. We're working on ideas on how we might extend our reach into less populated areas. IN FOR THE LONG SWIM In order to be effective, this type of research effort requires long term commitment on the part of observers, data wranglers and researchers. Already we are gathering information of significance including feeding activity and calf sightings, and this will only increase over time as the observation effort increases. Bribie's dugongs face increasing pressure from rising numbers of high-speed recreational vessels, loss of coastal habitat to development, poor water quality, increased water temperatures effecting the abundance of their only food source, seagrass.
YOU CAN HELP
Contribute the Bribie Island Dugong Sightings Facebook Group
Join the BIEPA Wildlife Team and volunteer to assist the Dugong Diaries Project
Lobby for better marine wildlife protections
Advocate for wildlife-friendly recreation and sustainable tourism on and around Bribie.
Get out and about, Dugong Spotting!
Big thank you to BIEPA's Dugong Diaries Project Coordinator Sherry Bruce, data wranglers Jayda Bruce and Deirdre Reynolds, all our project team members, and to all the wonderful "citizen scientists" who has contributed sightings so far!