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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Here Be Dragons: Tracking Seadragons in Australia through Community Science and the Art of Underwater Photography

  • Author(s): Tustison, Chrissy
  • et al.

Community science initiatives are increasingly utilized to integrate the skill sets and knowledge of scientists with those of community members in order to enhance understanding of biodiversity and efficiency of conservation projects. Such initiatives provide data to researchers that would otherwise be difficult to collect, engage communities with natural environments, and promote appreciation for scientific research and local ecology. My advisors and I realized that conservation of seadragon populations and their respective habitats represented an area in marine and conservation biology that could potentially benefit from such a project. Due to receding kelp and seagrass habitats in southern Australia, there is concern that current seadragon ranges may be contracting, and baseline data on populations and their distributions is needed to determine appropriate conservation measures. This project focused on developing a community science initiative to support seadragon research and lead to desired conservation outcomes. The end product is a developing website that uses a computer vision model and deep learning to analyze volunteer-submitted photos of seadragons. This website will eventually provide data on individual seadragons and population dynamics.

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