Finally after around 3 months of Covid lockdown URG members were lucky enough to get out on the boat today and do some nice dives at Henry’s head where we encountered about 7 adult weedy SeaDragons including two males with eggs.
URG has been involved in a variety of Weedy Seadragon monitoring and research programs for many years including undertaking regular Weedy Seadragon surveys since 2015 in an effort to monitor populations around Sydney.
You can help with this ongoing program in a number of ways. Firstly you can simply report incidental sightings of Weedy Seadragon and counts on your dive and comment on the "Weedy Seadragons NSW group" group page:
Search for "Weedy Seadragons NSW group" or go to link
https://www.facebook.com/groups/309864133387995 . Any basic additional descriptions of whether the weedy had eggs, habitat description -e.g. hanging out in kelp on sand-line ,depth etc is also good to note in addition to counts . This page gets monitored by Dr Selma Klaten from UTS who helps collate the information into an online spreadsheet.
In 2020 URG became a citizen science collaborator another Weedy research project known as SeaDragonSearch research which seeks to understand wild sea dragon populations around Australia through community involvement.
The SeaDragonSearch project partnered with the non-profit software developer Wild Me, using machine learning tools to identify Seadragons in photos and track individual dragons over time.
To support this program you can submit your photos to the following site https://seadragonsearch.org/
Tips for taking photos of weedy seas dragons: Take shots at right angle as best possible to the side or flank of the animal without overly chasing or disturbing it and not touching it .
It's good to get as much of the animal in the shot as possible but particularly it's head and side / flank. The spot patterns need to be reasonably clear in the photo for the software to be able to effectively identify the animal.
Some other recent URG Weedy Seadragon research involvement : From 2017 - 2020 URG were involved in a UTS project and assisted Dr Selma Klanten and Dr David Booth in collecting DNA samples for research into weedy seadragon genomics.
The research aimed to understand the genetic structure and diversity of weedy seadragon populations along Australia’s east coast. The researchers identified four distinct genetic clusters – central NSW, southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. Selma was awarded a Sea World grant for this research back in 2018/2019 and URG members travelled with Selma interstate to Vic and Tasmania to help with data collection. The following page is a good summary write up on this work: https://www.uts.edu.au/news/health-science/weedy-seadragon-genomics-reveal-highly-distinct-populations.