Amanda Hodgson  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.
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08 9360 7215

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A.Hodgson@murdoch.edu.au

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Dr Amanda Hodgson
PhD

Research Fellow

About me

I am a researcher in the Aquatic Megafauna Research Unit. While I’m interested in all marine mammal research, my research focus is on dugongs, aerial surveys, and adapting new technology, such as drones and artificial intelligence, for marine mammal monitoring. I aim to continue to develop innovative ways to detect and monitor marine mammals so that we can improve our understanding of their status, conservation needs and habitat requirements globally.

Research areas

For my PhD I investigated the behaviour of dugongs and the effects of human influences, including the noise from boats and underwater alarms on fishing nets. I developed an aerial observation platform called the Blimp-Cam to observe dugong behaviour in a location where dugongs form persistently large herds. I conducted focal follows on individuals and scans of their herd structure, and also observed their behaviour in response to boats passing.

I was then part of a number of projects involving aerial surveys of dugongs and other marine mammals from small fixed-wing planes, to obtain information about their abundance, distribution,  habitat use, and large-scale movements over time. I have conducted aerial surveys throughout Australia and internationally, and even participated in whale surveys in Antarctica.

Most recently I have developed methods for using drones to conduct large-scale aerial surveys of marine mammals, with a view of understanding how surveys with drones compare to surveys by people on board manned planes.

I have also collaborated with researchers from the Queensland University of Technology to develop an automated system for detecting animals in the images captured during a drone survey, and a researcher from TU Wien in Vienna to map drone images and sightings detected by our automated system.

I now supervisor a postdoctoral researcher, Dr Christophe Cleguer, who is investigating the use of small and mid-sized drones for conducting local-scale aerial surveys to understand fine-scale dugong densities and habitat use.

Current projects

“Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS) to survey marine mammals: development of methodology and a comparison with manned aerial survey estimates”

The aim of this project is to determine whether UAVs (drones) can replace manned aerial surveys whilst producing data that can be integrated with historical records. We have produced two papers empirically testing the applicability of a large military style drone (ScanEagle) for surveys of dugongs and humpback whales. In addition we have conducted a direct comparison between the sightings rates of dugongs from a manned survey and a ScanEagle survey. The images collected during this experiment will also be used to determine whether sighting rates of dolphins, rays and turtles are comparable between manned surveys and drone surveys.

“Using AI to detect dugongs”

My collaborator, Dr Frederic Maire from Queensland University of Technology, and myself have developed a machine learning system to detect dugongs in UAV images using training images provided from our trial ScanEagle surveys. The aim of the Dugong Detector is to produce a set of potential detections that are then verified by the researcher. The recall of this system (i.e., the proportion of known dugongs detected in a set of test images) according to a test set of images is 80%. The precision of the system (proportion of detections that were true dugongs as opposed to false detections) is 27%. We are currently testing this system with a larger labelled dataset. We will use both the true and false positives from this larger dataset to improve the Dugong Detector and investigate whether particular environmental conditions or characteristics affect the system’s recall rate.

“Conserving critical seagrass habitat for dugong: an integrated assessment across the Pilbara”

This project is a collaboration between Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University in partnership with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. The objective of this project is to enhance our understanding of the effect of seagrass dynamics as well as other environmental factors on the spatial dynamics and health of dugong populations; and develop innovative techniques for using mid-range, hybrid drones to conduct local-scale (10’s of kilometres) aerial surveys that were not possible using traditional manned aircraft. Note that Dr Christophe Cleguer is running this project.

“Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to investigate visual detection probability of coastal dolphins during aerial surveys”

My collaborators, Dr Alex Brown and Dr Simon Allen, and I are using small, multi-rotor UAVs to conduct aerial observations of the diving behaviour of coastal dolphins to estimate the proportion of time they are ‘available’ to be counted by aerial observers. Our results will be applied to the Western Australian government’s aerial surveys of humpback dolphins in the Pilbara.

Awards and grants

Major grants (>$10K) received since arriving at Murdoch in 2010

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to investigate visual detection probability of coastal dolphins during aerial surveys Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc. Co-Investigator (awarded in 2017)  $49,432

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to investigate visual detection probability of coastal dolphins during aerial surveys Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions Co-Investigator (awarded in 2017)  $54,839

Conserving Critical Seagrass Habitat for Dugong: An Integrated Assessment Across the Pilbara Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Lead Investigator (awarded in 2016)  $473,672

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: manual detection of dugongs in images to allow validation of alternative detection methods Australian Antarctic Division – Australian Marine Mammal Centre Lead Investigator (awarded in 2013)  $53,623

Abundance estimation of breeding stock ‘D’ of humpback whales (Western Australia): a pilot study to determine optimal survey methods and location Australian Antarctic Division – Australian Marine Mammal Centre Co-Investigator (awarded in 2013)  $199,400

Wheatstone Project: Dugong Aerial Surveys Chevron (Funding via URS) Lead Investigator (awarded in 2012 to 2015)  $1,893,003

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: development of methodology: Field trial 2 Woodside Energy Lead Investigator (awarded in 2011)  $60,000

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: development of methodology: Field trial 1 Woodside Energy Lead Investigator (awarded in 2010)  $43,700

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to survey marine mammals: development of methodology and a comparison with manned aerial survey estimates Australian Antarctic Division – Australian Marine Mammal Centre (Bill Dawbin Postdoctoral Fellowship) Lead Investigator (awarded in 2010)  $440,400

Events and speaking engagements

International conference presentations since arriving at Murdoch in 2010:

2015 – Unmanned versus manned: a direct comparison between sightings from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and human observers during a dugong aerial survey. 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, 2015. San Francisco, USA, 13-18 December 2015.

2014 – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveying humpback whales: a direct comparison between land-based and UAV sightings. The Wildlife Society Conference. Pittsburg, USA, 25-30 October 2014.

2013 – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as a new behavioural observation tool: estimating humpback whale availability corrections for aerial surveys. 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Dunedin, New Zealand, 9-13 December 2013.

2011 – A successful demonstration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for detecting dugongs and a range of other species. 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Tampa, USA, 27 November – 2 December 2011.

2011 – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: a new technique for surveying marine mammals. AMSA2011 Conference (Australian Marine Sciences Association). Fremantle, Western Australia, 3-7 July 2011.

 

Professional and community service

UNEP Dugong Technical Advisory Group

  • I am an invited member of the Dugong Technical Advisory Group (DTAG) under the UNEP/CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs (Dugong dugon) and their Habitats throughout their Range (website)
  • The Dugong MoU aims to facilitate and foster the conservation and management of dugongs and their habitats throughout their range. It covers 46 range states (countries) across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and currently has 26 range state signatories.
  • DTAG consists of 11 dugong and seagrass researchers internationally, including only 3 dugong researchers (meet the team).
  • We provide advice to dugong research projects being undertaken around the world, including eight Global Environment Fund (GEF) projects.
  • We developed the Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit – an online resource for researchers internationally.

Drones

  • I am an Associate Editor on the Journal of Unmanned Aerial Systems.
  • I am a member of the Murdoch University’s UAV Working Group.
  • I attended the United States Marine Mammal Commission’s UAS Advanced Survey Technology Workshop on Development and Use of UAS by National Marine Fisheries Service for Surveying Marine Mammals (report).

Arabian Gulf

  • In 2006 I conducted an aerial survey of dugongs throughout Bahraini waters.
  • I was invited and funded to attend a Marine Conservation Forum in Abu Dhabi in 2010.
  • I am a collaborator on the UAE Dolphin Project with Dr Ada Natoli in Dubai.

International memberships

  • I am currently the Regional Co-Chair of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group, with whom I have been a member since 2000.
  • I am a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

  • Claire Greenwell,  PhD ,  2018 to ongoing  (Co-Supervisor)

Life history and population dynamics of the Australian Fairy Tern, with implications for conservation management

 

  • Daniella Hanf,  Research Masters (with Training),  2013 to 2015 (Co-Supervisor)

Species distribution modelling of southern Pilbara coastal dolphins

Publications

Chapters

  • Preen, A., Das, H., Al-Rumaidh, M., Hodgson, A., (2012),Dugongs in Arabia,In: Sirenian Conservation: Issues and Strategies in Developing Countries, University Press of Florida, pages 91 to 98.
  • Aragones, L., Lawler, I., Marsh, H., Domning, D., Hodgson, A., (2012),The role of sirenians in aquatic ecosystems,In: Sirenian Conservation: Issues and Strategies in Developing Countries, University Press of Florida, pages 4 to 11.
  • Hodgson, A., (2011),Marine Mammals,In: Marine Atlas: Western Arabian Gulf, Saudi Aramco, pages 242 to 263.

Journals

  • Hodgson, A., Peel, D., Kelly, N., (2017), Unmanned aerial vehicles for surveying marine fauna: assessing detection probability, Ecological Applications, 27, 4, pages 1253 - 1267.
  • Maire, F., Alvarez, L., Hodgson, A., (2015), Automating Marine Mammal Detection in Aerial Images Captured During Wildlife Surveys: A Deep Learning Approach, Marine Mammal Science, 9457, 0, pages 379 - 385.
  • Hodgson, A., Kelly, N., Peel, D., (2013), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Surveying Marine Fauna: A Dugong Case Study, PLoS One, 8, 11, pages 1 - 15.
  • Bejder, L., Hodgson, A., Loneragan, N., Allen, S., (2012), Coastal dolphins in north-western Australia: The need for re-evaluation of species listings and short-comings in the Environmental Impact Assessment process, Pacific Conservation Biology: a journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region, 18, 42767, pages 22 - 25.
  • Allen, S., Cagnazzi, D., Hodgson, A., Loneragan, N., Bejder, L., (2012), TROPICAL INSHORE DOLPHINS OF NORTH WESTERN AUSTRALIA UNKNOWN POPULATIONS IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING REGION, Pacific Conservation Biology: a journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region, 18, 42767, pages 56 - 63.
  • Hagihara, R., Jones, R., Sheppard, J., Hodgson, A., Marsh, H., (2011), Minimizing errors in the analysis of dive recordings from shallow-diving animals, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 399, 2, pages 173 - 181.
  • Hodgson, A., (2007), "Blimp-cam": Aerial video observations of marine animals, Marine Technology Society Journal, 41, 2, pages 39 - 43.

Conference

  • Maire, F., Mejias, L., Hodgson, A., (2014),A convolutional neural network for automatic analysis of aerial imagery,In: 2014 International Conference on Digital Image Computing: Techniques and Applications (DICTA).
  • Mejias, L., Duclos, G., Hodgson, A., Maire, F., (2013),Automated marine mammal detection from aerial imagery,In: 2013 OCEANS - San Diego.
  • Maire, F., Mejias, L., Hodgson, A., Duclos, G., (2013),Detection of dugongs from unmanned aerial vehicles,In: IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) (2013).
Publications prior to Murdoch
  • Hodgson, A. (2009). Marine Mammals. Marine Atlas of Bahrain. R. A. Loughland and A. J. M. Zainal. Manama, Bahrain, GEOMATEC: 232-261.
  • Hodgson, A. (2007). ‘Blimp-cam’: aerial video observations of marine animals. Marine Technology Society Journal 41(2): 39-43.
  • Hodgson, A. J. and H. Marsh (2007). Response of dugongs to boat traffic: the risk of disturbance and displacement. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 340: 50-61.
  • Hodgson, A. J., H. Marsh, S. Delean and L. Marcus (2007). Is attempting to change marine mammal behaviour a generic solution to the bycatch problem? A dugong case study. Animal Conservation 10: 263-273.
  • Hodgson, A. J., Marsh, H. and Corkeron, P. J. (2004). Provisioning by tourists affects the behaviour but not the body condition of Mareeba rock-wallabies (Petrogale mareeba). Wildlife Research 31: 451-456.
  • Allen, S., Marsh, H. and Hodgson, A. (2004). Occurrence and conservation of the dugong (Sirenia: Dugongidae) in New South Wales. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 125: 211-216.
Reports
  • Hedley, S., Bannister, J., Bravington, M., Double, M., Du Fresne, S., Dunlop, R. A., Hodgson, A., Salgado Kent, C. and Smith, J. (2012). Survey plans to estimate absolute abundance of Breeding Stock D humpback whales off Western Australia. Paper SC/64/SH28 presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission, June 16. 10 pp.
  • Hodgson, A. J., M. Noad, H. Marsh, J. Lanyon and E. Kniest (2010). Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for surveys of marine mammals in Australia: test of concept. Hobart, Final Report to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, Approved 9 June 2010. 76 pp.
  • Hodgson, A. J., H. Marsh, N. Gales, D. K. Holley and I. Lawler (2008). Dugong population trends across two decades in Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf. Denham, Western Australia, WA Department of Environment and Conservation. 38 pp.
  • Hodgson, A. J. (2007). The distribution, abundance and conservation of dugongs and other marine megafauna in Shark Bay Marine Park, Ningaloo Reef Marine Park and Exmouth Gulf. Denham, Western Australia, WA Department of Environment and Conservation. 47 pp.