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World's largest bird survey carried out by UN -

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World's largest bird survey carried out by UNSW scientists

Broadcast: 04/11/2008


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Scientists from the University of New South Wales are now taking part in
what's said to be the world's largest aerial survey of waterbirds.

Three light planes are being used to help with a count on every major wetland and river in

Well Jayne Margetts caught up with one of the teams on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

JAYNE MARGETTS, REPORTING: This plane is tiny, but it's on a huge mission. As it skims the
waterways two scientists are crammed inside counting waterbirds.

SCIENTIST 1: One white ibis.

PROF. RICHARD KINGSFORD, UNIVERSITY OF NSW: Any breath of air hits the plane, if you've got a
little bit of a gust of wind it bounces all over the place.

JAYNE MARGETTS: Not surprising then that the plane's been nicknamed "the torture chamber."

The scientists fly for seven hours a day for two months, scouring every wetland in the country.

RICHARD KINGSFORD: It's never been done in Australia and it's never been done anywhere in the world
at this sort of scale.

JAYNE MARGETTS: They've worked their way across the tropics from the wetlands of Kakadu to Cape
York, at times counting flocks of more than 100,000 waterbirds using nothing more than a keen set
of eyes.

But for now they are taking a break on the mid north coast of NSW.

This is one of 300 stops the team will make on their massive journey around the continent. By the
time the surveys finished in four weeks time, they'll have covered a distance of nearly 80,000km.

So far they've completed half of their journey confronting some of the country's most remote

DR JOHN PORTER, UNIVERSITY OF NSW: From the desert dunes of the Simpson Desert, and the heat and
the aridity, and then trying to find a gap in the weather to count alpine lakes.

JAYNE MARGETTS: It's hoped the results of the survey will be used to educate future generations
about how to preserve Australia's waterways.

RICHARD KINGSFORD: The last thing we want to do is make the same mistakes that we've made in the
Murray-Darling Basin.

JAYNE MARGETTS: But for now it's off to Townsville. Jayne Margetts, Lateline.