The latest tool for protecting the Great Barrier Reef is a simple aluminium post.
Victoria University College of Business researcher Dr Martin Fluker has just installed three of his 'Fluker PostsTM' at the UNESCO World Heritage reef near Cairns.
The posts are placed at sites in need of monitoring and contain a small platform for a camera and instructions on where to point and shoot. These photographs are then uploaded to a central photo sharing website where reef and marine wildlife managers can monitor the area over time.
Two posts have been installed on the upper deck of the Reef Magic-operated Marine World pontoon, facing north and southeast over sections of reef which are exposed at low tide. A third post has been installed underwater looking at a coral bombora, or coral 'shelf'.
It is hoped the posts will be well used by the hundreds of tourists aboard catamaran snorkel tours run by Reef Magic, who regularly use the pontoon for tourist charters.
"The success of this design is its simplicity," Dr Fluker said. "It has minimal set-up or maintenance costs yet delivers on the need for monitoring large and often remote natural environments."
Reef Magic and James Cook University are both supporting the Victoria University research project.
While new to the Great Barrier Reef, Fluker PostsTM have been used for several years in forests and wetlands in South-eastern Australia, from Werribee to Cape Otway.
Parks Victoria ranger Nick Alexeyeff said the innovative method to collect data in these locations had been working well.
"By positioning the Fluker PostsTM in remote locations I am able to gain information from these sites without using resources from here," Mr Alexeyeff said. "This has cost benefits for me by not having to regularly send staff out to monitor these sections, which in turn frees up my team for other work."