Reducing urban glow: supporting sea turtle survival using open data

Funded

Bundaberg Regional Council

Coastline of the Bundaberg Local Government Area, Queensland

Project stage

In progress

Timeframe

Start date: 14 December 2018
End date: 19 June 2020

Project value

Australian Government funding:
$660,000
Total:
$1,320,000

Partners

  • Queensland Department of Environment and Science
  • Central Queensland University
  • Ergon Energy
  • Burnett Mary Regional Group
  • The Prince's Trust Australia Bundaberg Tourism

Focus area

  • Innovation and economic development
  • Education and public health
  • Natural environmental data and measurement (air quality, dust, noise, waterways)

Project type

  • Smart lighting
  • Community engagement
  • Smart amenity management (library, pool, BBQs, toilets...)
  • Environmental monitoring

Technology type

  • Internet of Things
  • Network infrastructure
  • Data Management (Data platform, open data, data privacy and security, blockchains, standards)
  • Wireless sensor networks
  • Cloud computing
  • Online portal
  • Other

Project summary

Bundaberg Regional Council commits to conserving the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the east coast of Australia using smart technology and open data. The project includes deploying urban glow sensors to measure light pollution during nesting season, the data from which will be displayed on a publicly accessible web-based heat map. This platform will raise public awareness and support engagement for protecting turtle populations through place-specific interventions that reduce urban glow. The platform will guide deployment of smart lighting technology in precincts of highest glow and provide data to measure the impact of reduced glow on marine turtles.

The challenge

Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light sources have a negative impact on both nesting turtles and hatchlings by preventing them from navigating to and from the ocean. Furthermore, this evidence shows a correlation between the decline of turtle populations and increasingly illuminated skylines near turtle nesting beaches.

Solution

The project is comprised of the following components:

  1. Measuring the level of urban glow through deployment of sensor technology along the Bundaberg coast. The open data generated from lighting measurements will be available through a publicly accessible, web based heat map to raise awareness of light pollution levels affecting turtle populations.
  2. The real time open data will guide the design and deployment of smart lighting solutions in the areas of highest urban glow. In addition, this platform will raise public awareness and support citizen engagement for protecting turtle populations through place-specific interventions that reduce urban glow.

Benefits

From an environmental perspective, this project will provide insight into how our urban setting affects the natural environment, and furthermore, how we can use technology and open data to reduce the impact of urban glow. This blend of smart technology and collaboration will also enable further research and conservation that could benefit turtle populations elsewhere in the world, as well as environmentally sensitive environments that are susceptible to urban lighting.

The social component is reinforced through the use of open data to unify the community around the common goal of turtle conservation, increasing survival rates, and protecting the habitat that allows them to breed. Of all the environmental threats to marine turtles, urban glow is one of the few variables that humans can directly influence. By empowering the community through open data, the project will help the community make informed decisions about the use of light and take action that addresses the problem of urban glow.

Protecting our marine turtles is also vital for maintaining tourism as a pillar of Bundaberg’s regional economy. The Mon Repos Turtle Centre is a critical component of Bundaberg Tourism’s Destination Tourism Plan, which has ambitious targets of growing regional overnight visitor expenditure. Moreover, Mon Repos Turtle Centre is a core element of the QLD Government’s ecotourism aspirations, which is undertaking a significant multi-stage redevelopment to create a world class visitor experience with contemporary research facilities.

Lessons learned

The project is currently in the early stages of assessing existing public lighting and developing the urban glow sensor network across the Bundaberg region’s coastal fringe. Project learning to date has focused on: the types of light to measure (i.e. direct light spilling onto beaches as opposed to cumulative urban glow); optimal sensor types for light pollution detection and measurement; distribution of sensors for efficient data gathering; and the wide variety of actions we can take to reduce the amount of light affecting marine turtle nesting beaches.

Outcomes

The project is still in the very early stages of execution, however an important outcome to date is the joint partnerships that have been established between a wide variety of stakeholders. This includes highly experienced scientists and staff from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, CQ University, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Ergon Energy, The Prince’s Trust Australia, Greenfleet, Bundaberg Tourism, and the locally based Sea Turtle Alliance.

Contact details

Name: Andrew Beckenhauer
Phone: 0741304719
Email: andrew.beckenhauer@bundaberg.qld.gov.au