Status and trends of resident shorebirds in Tasmania

Dr Eric Woehler1

1Birdlife Tasmania, , Australia


The distribution, abundance and population trends of resident shorebirds in Tasmania are critical for their conservation and management. Breeding population surveys of sandy beaches around Tasmania since the late 1990s provide the data to prepare statewide syntheses of the distribution and trends for Hooded and Red-capped Plovers, and Pied Oystercatchers. Data for Fairy and Little Terns are obtained during shorebird surveys, and are included in the syntheses due to the similarities of nesting habitats and threats. Based on these surveys and syntheses to date, Tasmania is believed to support almost half the Australian and/or global populations of Hooded Plover and Pied Oystercatcher, and significant proportions of the Australian populations of Fairy and Little Terns.


Eric Woehler has been working on Tasmania’s shorebirds and seabirds for almost 40 years.

How GIS can assist understanding spatial distributions of little penguin colonies and burrows

Dr Perviz Marker1, Professor Mark  Hindell2, A/Prof Alastair Richardson3

1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 3School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Many seabirds breed colonially. These colonies are usually positioned to minimise the distance to foraging grounds. Nest-site locations within a colony are a response to micro scale factors such as avoidance of predators or proximity to potential mates. Seabird colonies and the locations of nest-sites within them can show a clustered, random or dispersed pattern. The spatial relationships at different scales: meso (state-wide: 100s km), regional (colony: 10s km); coarse (nest-site distribution within colonies: 100s m) and micro (nest-site characteristics: < 1m), are examined to see whether their locations are clustered, random or dispersed. At the nest-site micro scale (nest-site), the analysis is extended to investigate what factors may contribute to the observed patterns. Six colonies from Doctor’s Rocks to Sulphur Creek along the North West Coast of Tasmania are used.

Spatial ecological analyses using GIS are undertaken in order to understand how a series of little penguin (Eudyptula minor) colonies on the island of Tasmania and in particular the North West Coast region of the island are distributed along the coastline. It should be recognised that GIS is only as useful as the data available and much of that is determined by the accuracy of the data collected by a Global Positioning System (GPS).

The results obtained from this analysis provide some understanding of the densities within and among colonies that could have consequences for the conservation and management of little penguin colonies in areas where habitat is degraded.


Dr Perviz Marker has recently completed her PhD study entitled “Spatial Scale and Nest Distribution of Little Penguins”. She has been working in coastal management issues related to Little Penguins for 20 years in the North West of Tasmania with community groups, Cradle Coast NRM, TasRail and Councils. Perviz started the Friends of Burnie Penguins in 2005 and is the coordinator for the group.

Environmental Geophysics for Coastal Management

Mr Paul Donaldson1, Dr Douglas Bergersen2, Dr Matthew Barnes3, Mr Conor Jones3

1BMT, Newcastle, Australia, 2Acoustic Imaging, Cooroy, Australia, 3BMT, Brisbane, Australia


Solutions for coastal management problems often require information on conditions below the ground, such as the geological/geotechnical characteristics of the subsurface, or the location, depth and shape of buried infrastructure. Environmental geophysical methods have the potential to help in this regard, and especially so where traditional investigative techniques are either too expensive, destructive or simply unworkable. Such data provide invaluable assistance for focusing sampling programs for example, that can potentially result in considerable cost savings. For this reason, shallow geophysical methods such as ground penetrating radar are increasingly used as a coastal management tool in onshore environments, including in the upper beachface, dune and backbeach settings. Similarly, marine seismic and sub-bottom profiling methods are becoming an important survey tool in estuarine and marine environments, and especially so when coupled with acoustic swath mapping of the seabed bathymetry and backscatter properties. Broad expertise in geophysics is required to use these technologies, in addition to specialist training and experience in each method.

At a practical level, coastal managers generally have limited knowledge of the range of geophysical techniques and potential applications available to coastal science and engineering. This paper provides an introduction to coastal practitioners on the various uses, advantages and limitations of geophysics in the coastal and marine environment. Applications include, for example, geological and geomorphological surveys to improve understanding of coastal/marine conditions and processes; site characterisation of geotechnical properties to inform erosion hazard assessments and design of coastal engineering structures (e.g., seawalls); and surveys of buried coastal or marine infrastructure for asset management purposes. This paper examines opportunities to apply environmental geophysics to coastal and marine management problems through the lens of case study projects.


Paul is a Senior Coastal Scientist with BMT in Newcastle NSW, with industry and research experience in coastal geomorphology, environmental geophysics and coastal management.

Baseline Performance Testing and Practical Training for Swath Mapping Systems

Dr Douglas Bergersen1, Nicole Bergersen

1Acoustic Imaging Pty Ltd, Cooroy, Australia


Swath mapping of marine environments provide essential information for many coastal management efforts. Mapping techniques often include swath bathymetry, sidescan sonar, subbottom profiling and seismic. Accurate and repeatable results are key to deriving meaningful conclusions for any given project. Technological advances in the field have made swath mapping easier to conduct and consequently has expanded the pool potential data suppliers. However, speciality knowledge is still required.

Acoustic Imaging embraces the concept of broadening the  swath mapping community beyond dedicated survey companies.   Integration and baseline performance testing services allows both data suppliers and clients to fully understand the capabilities of the systems they are using and limitations to the data acquired. These services extend from desktop studies to ensure the most appropriate equipment is employed or purchased, to installation and data analysis highlighting constraints of an equipment suite. Such knowledge minimises risks for both the survey provider and client. The performance testing aligns with international standards and allows data to be more readily accepted as part of a national marine database.

Associated with integration / implementation is training on equipment use and data monitoring. Acoustic Imaging provides practical training at a variety of survey stages (e.g., installation, calibration, acquisition, processing, presentation).  Each course is tailored to the system and objectives of the client, with the ultimate goal of establishing confidence that proper procedures are in place to capture data in a form that supports archiving, monitoring, and auditing purposes.


Douglas Bergersen has a MSc and PhD in Marine Geophysics from the University of Hawaii and has been working in the offshore industry for over 30 years.

Through his company Acoustic Imaging he advises clients in the Austral-Asia region on issues ranging from appropriate survey strategies for addressing various mapping objectives to optimised data processing workflows to overall project management.

Acoustic Imaging promotes the expansion of marine mapping efforts beyond dedicated survey companies. We offer complete integration and practical education services across a variety of platforms and disciplines, ranging from hydrography to geophysics to geodetics.

Climatic resilience of coastal dune vegetation

Dr Teresa Konlechner1, A/Prof David Kennedy1

1National Centre for Coasts and Climate, School of Geography, University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia


This paper reviews the potential impact of climate change on dune vegetation and associated resilience of coastal foredunes in Victoria. Foredunes are the shore parallel ridges formed at the back of beaches by aeolian sand deposition within vegetation. They are critical in mitigating coastline erosion and flooding, and as a result have been encouraged to form naturally, or be artificially created, for coastal defence. Vegetation is fundamental both to building and stabilizing foredunes. The flora of coastal dunes is, however, highly sensitive to changes in temperature, precipitation, and wave erosion especially under conditions predicted to occur as the result of climate change. In Victoria there is an added complexity in that foredunes are dominated by exotic species capable of altering foredune morphology. Vegetation on the Victorian coast occurs in distinct zonational patterns determined in part by microclimates and beach erosional state. The indigenous dune-building grass, Spinifex sericeus, is limited at its seaward margin by wave swash processes and on its landward margin by competition with other species, for example. The complexity in predicting future shoreline dynamics of spinifex dominated dunes is that the grass is being displaced by invasive species; seawheat grass (Thinopyrum junceiforme) closest to the wave swash zone and by marram grass (Ammophila arenaria) above the limit of waves. As dune morphology, and subsequently storm response, is a direct function of species composition, effective coastal management therefore requires consideration of both species occurrence and ecological shift driven by invasive species colonisation.


I am a coastal geomorphologist with connections to ecology and conservation management. My research interests lie at the interface of physical geography and ecology with a focus on the response of coastal biogeomorphic systems to disturbance. Recent projects have involved measurements of sand transport on vegetated foredunes, the impact of invasive plants on dune morphology and ecology, and evaluating dune restorations. Current research examines the sensitivity of sandy coasts to erosion.

Insights into the extent and dynamics of key coastal habitat for threatened and migratory species in northern Australia from the Landsat archive

Dr Brendan Brooke1, Dr  Claire Phillips1, Dr Leo Lymburner1

1Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia


We assessed the utility of the Australian Landsat archive in the Digital Earth Australia (DEA) analysis platform for mapping estuarine landforms and habitats, and changes over time in their distribution and extent, in areas known to be important for threatened and migratory species.

Seven estuaries were examined, Darwin Harbour and the Keep, Daly, Roper, Macarthur, Flinders and Gilbert River estuaries, as part of a scoping project in the National Environmental Science Program’s Marine Biodiversity Hub. The estuaries were selected because they are known to provide biologically important areas for the species of interest, especially shorebirds, and including elasmobranchs (e.g. sawfish, river sharks), and dugong. Detecting habitat change was enabled using the long (1987-2017) and dense (repeat observations at least once every two weeks) Landsat time series held in the DEA.

The results clearly depict the dynamic nature of some estuaries, including large-scale rapid shoreline change, with tidal flat extension, island growth and mangrove expansion (e.g. Keep River and Gilbert River estuaries); gradual long-term expansion of mangrove (Flinders River and McArthur River estuaries); and estuaries with areas that have experienced rapid recent die back of mangrove (Roper River and Flinders estuaries).

This information is important for the management of key species and decisions around coastal developments. With Landsat and new satellite data streams (e.g. Sentinal 2) continually being added to the DEA, this time-series analysis approach could be developed into an effective habitat extent and condition monitoring tool for northern Australia. A key next step in this approach is to utilise ground-validation data to enable these habitats to be robustly classified and quantified using the Landsat archive.


Brendan is a Principal Scientist in the National Earth and Marine Observations Branch of Geoscience Australia. He has extensive experience leading and managing science teams investigating coastal and marine geology, geomorphology and habitats.

Tracking continental scale changes in mangrove extent using Digital Earth Australia

Dr Leo Lymburner1, Dr  Peter  Scarth2, Dr  Richard Lucas3, Mr  Peter  Bunting3, Dr Catherine Ticehurst4, Dr  Claire Phillips1

1Geoscience Australia, Symonston, Australia, 2University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 3University of Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth, Wales, 4CSIRO , Canberra, Australia


Mangroves provide a range of essential ecosystem services, from coastal protection, habitat provision and carbon sequestration.  However mangroves are impacted by a wide range of natural and anthropogenic drivers leading to losses and gains in mangrove extent.  Multi-decadal archives of satellite imagery provide a unique opportunity for tracking changes in mangrove extent over time at continental scales.  The Digital Earth Australia (DEA) contains 3 decades of Landsat satellite surface reflectance which has been converted into fractional cover using algorithms developed by the Joint Remote Sensing Research Progam.  The green cover fraction measures the percentage of each pixel that contains green vegetation.  For vegetation with little or no understory such as mangroves, the 25th percentile of green cover fraction observed per year can be used to provide a consistent measure of canopy cover.  The 25th percentile of the DEA fractional cover product for each calendar year between 1988 and 2017 was calculated and a mangrove extent mask, based on the Global Mangrove Watch polygon was applied.  The result is a series of maps that show the mangrove canopy cover for each year.  This talk describes the mangrove canopy cover product with examples of how canopy cover has responded to disturbance events such as severe tropical cyclones.


Leo Lymburner has been working in the field of remote sensing since 1998.  He gained his PhD in remote sensing of riparian vegetation in 2006 and has been working at Geoscience Australia on land cover mapping and data cube applications since 2008.  Leo a member of the Landsat Science Team.

Going digital in coastal asset management

Ms Pamela Wong1Mr Daniel Rodger1, Ms Elisa Zavadil2

1Jeremy Benn Pacific, Spring Hill , Australia, 2Alluvium Consulting, Melbourne, Australia


AssetCoast is an online and app-based coastal asset management system.  It is used for in-field data collection and condition grading, with information stored through an online webpage, linking to available coastal inundation (storm tide) and coastal erosion estimates.  It has been developed to allow a risk-based approach to asset management, considering present day and future conditions.

The system has been used to facilitate data collection within the Douglas Shire Council, QLD, to support their Coastal Hazard Adaptation Scheme.  It uses iPad-enabled coastal asset data collection functions, provides a standard methodology for condition assessment, and assesses the key risks posed by storm tide inundation and beach erosion.

The in-field app is an iOS (IPhone/iPad) location-aware data collection system.  It logs and georeferences data collected in the field on beach segments, access points, primary and secondary defences, associated structures, defects and photographs.

During inspections, the condition grade methodology uses a 1-5 (very good to very poor) approach.  It provides a description, indicators and photographs for a range of defence condition states, to ensure a consistency within field inspections.

Once data is collected, coastal management and risk information can be input from relevant shoreline management plans or Coastal Hazard Management Plans.  This can include information on tidal planes, extreme sea levels and coastal erosion areas; for present day and future conditions; e.g. 2030, 2050 and 2100. These are used to provide a long-range view of likely liabilities, of increasing coastal process risks posed to assets, but also the likely future maintenance and capital costs.


Dan is a Director at JBP for Coastal Risk Management, and a chartered civil and marine engineer.  He has worked throughout Australia, the UK, France, India and the Pacific in coastal infrastructure projects.

His focus is the integration of innovation and technology within coastal management.  This ranges from the use of detailed numerical modelling, to the development of details coastal warning systems for fast responses.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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