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Drones, dogs put to use

The Hawkweed in the Kosciuszko National Park. Office of Environment and Heritage.DETECTION dogs, drones and an army of volunteers have scoured Kosciuszko National Park over summer in a joint effort from the air and on the ground to seek out and control the noxious Orange Hawkweed.
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Dr Pete Turner, Senior Weeds Office with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said this week specially trained detector dogs will return to the park to sniff out any hidden Orange Hawkweed plants, which are listed as Class 1 noxious weeds in Australia.

“The dogs are being brought back in to ‘verify’ the remote bushland survey work completed earlier this summer by over 50 Hunting Hawkweed community volunteers,” Dr Turner said.

“The volunteers, from universities and bushwalking clubs in NSW, Canberra, South Australia and Victoria, traversed remote areas of the park to find the bright-orange flowered hawkweed.

“Orange Hawkweed is only found at one location in NSW, Kosciusko National Park, and while only 360 square meters of the 673,000 hectare park is thought to be infested, the weed has the potential to decimate conservation and neighbouring agricultural lands,” Dr Turner said.

NPWS is also working with the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics to trial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to fly over inaccessible sections of the park to find the weed.

“Using a unique algorithm that detects orange hawkweed flowers by their colour and size, the UAVs have captured images that are being stitched together to provide a ‘map’ of possible hawkweed locations.”

Successful eradication means every last plant must be found and control must be quick and effective.

“That’s why during this summer’s campaign we are pulling out all stops – utilising new technology, detector dogs and tried and tested surveying techniques,” Dr Turner said.

Once located, weed control involves NPWS crews walking or being helicoptered into remote and isolated locations to remove all flowering heads and to apply herbicides to kill the weeds and prevent spread.

Infested areas are signposted with information that allows members of the public to report any potential sightings, as well as advising people to avoid accidentally walking through patches of the weed and spreading seeds.

This year’s Hawkweed summer campaign is expected to wrap up by April 2016 and is part of the larger NSW Government 2015 – 2020 Hawkweed Eradication Project, run from the NSW Hawkweed Control Centre at Khancoban, which targets both Orange and Mouse-ear Hawkweed.

The project is a NSW Government initiative jointly funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Primary Industries under the Weeds Action Program

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