Dugongs are an iconic species of great interest to the Australian community and are of cultural significance to northern Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Dugongs are protected and have high national and international conservation value.

Many factors are known to affect the health and survival of dugong populations, for example, accidental capture by fishers and habitat loss. However, much is still to be learned about them, and current knowledge gaps limit Land and Sea Managers’ and communities’ capacity to plan and manage those activities that might impact their habitat, numbers, and health.

By using emerging technologies, great opportunities now exist to address these data gaps, at lower cost and with greater efficiency than ever before.

This project addresses these information gaps by collaboratively developing and testing better ways to undertake dugong focussed research.


The project will collate, test and adapt new technologies and explore develop methods that non-experts can use easily. In collaboration, scientists, managers, and Indigenous Rangers will:

  • develop drone and plane-based aerial photography protocols;
  • utilise and refine artificial intelligence systems to count dugongs from aerial images;
  • explore the feasibility of remote measurement of size and body characteristics;
  • compare and align old and new survey methods;
  • use genetic methods to understand how individuals and populations mix and move; and
  • develop an Indigenous community-led monitoring program in Indigenous communities across northern Australia.

Expected outcomes

  • Knowledge to manage a sustainable, healthy dugong population.
  • Partnerships to support Indigenous monitoring and management of dugongs.
  • Innovative monitoring and increased community involvement and oversight.

Project location