Manyallaluk eye in the sky


When dogs chase lumbering water buffaloes through town — and people escape up trees — surveying the movements of the feral bovids seems a logical science project to Manyallaluk School students.

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiative, will involve the collection of seasonal temperature and rainfall data to assess the impact on buffalo numbers at Kokili Creek

The young scientists are testing the hypothesis that cyclical variations in temperature and precipitation cause the animals to congregate around diminishing water sources in the dry season, and disperse as waterways expand in the wet season.

Counting the buffaloes is reliant on the school’s recently bought drone, launched on weekly missions to photograph the animals in upstream and downstream flights totalling more than 1.4 kilometres of the winding creek.

Teaching principal Ben Kleinig said the project is in its infancy, with the students still to master Bureau of Meteorology internet searches, and full confidence piloting the quadcopter only lately developed.

“Buffaloes tend to hang around the school at night, leaving a few smelly offerings, and since buffalo management is always topical, analysing the movements of these animals seemed an imaginative STEM program,” he said. “The study only started a fortnight ago, but we’ll continue it until the end of the year and into Term 1 of 2019.

“We’ll graph the results of aerial surveys, and the research findings will be compiled as graphs and data interpretations and presented as a report to the community and the Jawoyn Rangers.

“I do believe STEM can show how traditional knowledge and modern science can complement each other, and we are excited about where this journey will take us. I also think the wonderful aerial footage we have captured inspires kids, and fills them with pride for their country.

“We are finding STEM can encourage attendance, and be incorporated into every aspect of schooling, from literacy and numeracy to art. And I hope the use of STEM excites kids about future jobs and careers.”


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