Optimising dune restoration through the power of citizen science

Mr James Gullison1, Ms Maggie Muurmans1

1Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, Southport, Australia


European settlement over the last 100 years has decreased the number of natural dune sites along the city of the Gold Coast’s coastline. During the same period the city has experienced a high volume of intense storm events which has exposed the beaches to high erosion risk. The losses of beach front combined with the impacts of urban development have demonstrated a need for coastal management techniques to reduce the effect on coastal dunes. The Griffith Centre for Coastal Management runs the Coastal Community Engagement Program. It consists of BeachCare and DuneWatch with the aim to reduce the loss of sand along beaches through dune restoration with native species planting, increase biodiversity amongst flora and fauna species, coastline asset protection and increase stakeholder engagement through education, awareness and volunteer citizen science programs.

The methods from DuneWatch include flora and fauna diversity surveys, measurement of the dune slope, impacts from anthropogenic sources and photo-point monitoring. The results demonstrated stable flora and fauna zonation and a decrease in species at some sites due to human impacts. There is a direct correlation with the amount of rubbish found at each site and the decrease in flora diversity.

This information has provided the BeachCare program with a platform for further community engagement. It has been used to assess each site individually to determine the need for specific flora diversity at each site to increase species abundance and minimise the impacts of anthropogenic influences.


My career started with volunteer work with the Cape Byron Marine Park Authority in 2014. I worled on the collation of the commercial special permits within the marine park zone.

In 2015 I was part of the field work with the University of Queensland’s Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory and participated in a study for the abundance estimate of the East Australian Humpback population.

This lead to smaller consultancy roles as a marine fauna observer for special events in Gold Coast waterways.

In 2015 I began working with the Griffth Centre for Coastal Management with CoastEd. This also lead to further volunteer work with Ocean Connect and focused on mangrove data collection within a number of sites along the Gold Coast.

The role with GCCM expanded in 2017 and I am now the project officer for the Coastal Community Engagement Program and I facilitate BeachCare (community dune regeneration program). Other roles within  GCCM also include field work for water quality monitoring.