Project protecting unique environment turns to Trimble

A world-first ecological project team has employed Trimble technology as part of a push to rid an island environment of rodents. 

Located about 600km east of the NSW coast, Lord Howe Island’s isolation and its varied landscape are home to many unique and endemic species. 

This includes 241 species of indigenous plants, almost 50% of which are found nowhere else in the world; 207 species of bird, including the endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhen; and 1,600 terrestrial insect species, including the world’s rarest insect, the Lord Howe Island phasmid. 

The presence of exotic rodents on islands is one of the greatest causes of species extinction in the world. 

Rats have already been implicated in the extinction of five endemic bird species, at least 13 species of endemic invertebrates, and two plant species on the island. 

Rodents are also a recognised threat to at least 13 other bird species, two reptiles, 51 plant species, 12 vegetation communities and seven species of threatened invertebrates on the island. 

Trimble GNSS technology was used during the implementation of a rodent baiting program which was part of the LHIB’s Protecting Paradise Program, an island-wide, holistic ecological restoration program. 

The simple requirement was to find the best GNSS available that could integrate with LHIB’s field mapping software to lay out bait stations in a precise 10m x 10m grid across specific areas on the island, mainly in habituated areas. 

As well, GNSS was required for hand spreading baits in buffer zones between settled areas of the island and mountainous areas, which had been aerial baited. 

A number of GNSS options were trialled and with the tree and other foliage canopy being substantial in much of the target area, many of the trialled GNSS weren’t up to the task, in particular in relaying data to the phones being used for data capture. 

The best equipped tool was the Trimble R10. 

Twenty R10 rovers, receiving corrections broadcasted from an R10 base station and TDL450 repeater were the backbone of the solution. 

Android deviceswere used as handheld controllers with TrimbleGNSS Statussoftware installed. 

GNSS Statuswas using the R10 rover as its location source and the Android devicesMock Locationswas set to GNSS Status. 

This setup effectively provided the Android devices running the LHIB’s mapping software with RTK precision. 

A simple stake out to the grid points to lay the baits in the correct location was field workflow. 

Grant Harper, from Biodiversity Restoration Specialists, said for such a complex and large operation, accuracy and dependability was essential. 

“This is the largest eradication program of its kind ever undertaken anywhere in the world,” he said. 

“We needed to lay out around 19,000 bait stations plus about 6,000 hand broadcast points. 

“We did a lot of trialling of equipment for this project and the Trimble gear stood out, particularly for its accuracy. 

“It is a very complex site as it includes around 900 buildings of all sizes, so the accuracy was crucial. 

 “As well, the team from UPG was very helpful and quickly understood what we needed to do with the R10 units. 

 “Nothing was too much trouble for them – it was a good experience. 

“We used about 20 R10s and they pulled them from around Australia for us. Most projects would use one or two so to be able to provide that many was brilliant.” 

Grant said that while the program was set to end in early November, it would be 12 months before its success of otherwise was known. 

“We have to wait to see if any breeding happens post baiting,” he said. 

“This kind of project is very binary – we either have or haven’t eradicated the rodents.” 

At its core, the Protecting Paradise Program aims to support the removal of destructive invasive species, namely rodents and noxious weeds, while maintaining protection of threatened species by establishing a sustainable and robust bio security system to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species. 

These programs complement significant achievements to date including the eradication of cats and pigs in the 1980’s, feral goats in 1999, and myrtle rust in 2018, a world-first. 

To learn more about how Trimble technology can take your operations to a new level, contact us today.