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Working together to protect Barrow Island

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

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An acoustic sensor, the size of a smartphone, is helping to protect Barrow Island’s unique native fauna from the Asian House Gecko.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University’s (ECU) School of Engineering worked with Chevron Australia’s biodiversity experts to develop a wireless sensor network which can track this species of gecko and act as an early warning system. 

Barrow Island is a Class A Nature Reserve located approximately 60 kilometres off the North West coast of Australia. It is also home to the Chevron-operated Gorgon Project. In order to preserve the island’s unique ecosystem, Chevron turned to ECU to help keep this species from hitchhiking on overseas deliveries and reaching Barrow Island.

Professor Adam Osseiran and his team of researchers developed the high-tech wireless network known as Continuous Roving Observation Wireless Network (CROOWNR).

The CROOWNR will operate around the clock listening for the distinctive call of the geckos. If detected, it will send a text message to a dedicated Chevron Quarantine Inspector pinpointing its exact location.

Professor Osseiran said the network was an innovative solution to a potential biosecurity risk.

The network complements existing programs Chevron has put in place to ensure Barrow Island remains free from the Asian House Gecko and any other species not native to Barrow Island.

“The device we developed is small, can be solar-powered and easy to install. Around 200 devices will be placed on the island to provide the best possible protection,” said Professor Osseiran.

“The network is hooked up to the host server based at the ECU Joondalup Campus. There are no Asian House Geckos on Barrow Island which is why we developed a built-in-test call, which can be used in a similar way fire alarms are tested within the workplace.”

Professor Osseiran has developed acoustic sensor wireless devices for other pests, such as termites and the European House Borer.

His work with Chevron builds on his expertise in this field and provides possible opportunities to develop more sensor devices that potentially help in the fight against the cane toad.

The Gorgon Project is one of the world's largest natural gas projects and the largest single-resource project in Australia's history. It is operated by an Australian subsidiary of Chevron and is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3%), ExxonMobil (25%) and Shell (25%), Osaka Gas (1.25%), Tokyo Gas (1%) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417%).

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