30,000 people identify 800,000 animals – Australia’s online wildlife census is working!

ABC projects, Media releases

Scientists are thanking the 30,000 Australians who have gone online and spotted more than 800,000 animals in 680,000 images through the ABC’s Wildlife Spotter project, helping scientists monitor Australia’s wildlife, their predators and pests.

But there’s still more work to be done, with hundreds of thousands of pictures of animals taken by automated ‘camera traps’ needing to be done.

“You’re helping us save bandicoots and other animals,” says Deakin University ecologist Euan Ritchie. “And you’re literally saving us years of work, so we can get ahead with understanding and protecting our wildlife.”

Anyone with a tablet or computer and an internet connection can join – head to www.wildlifespotter.net.au to start spotting and identifying the wildlife caught on camera. 

Participants could also win one of two Go Pro Hero 4 cameras and schools could win a visit from Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. The more images you check, the better your chances of winning. The competition runs until 5 September.

“I’ve heard of people doing Wildlife Spotter at school, with their grandchildren and even while watching the Olympics,” says Kylie Andrews, coordinator of the project at ABC Science.

“One person has worked through over 6,500 images. And there’s an enthusiastic school group that has logged more than 3,200 observations.”

Scientists will use the findings to understand our wildlife hotspots, such as the Territory’s arid regions, conservation parks in Tasmania and bandicoots on Melbourne’s fringe.

Click on images for high-res versions

“With over 125,000 images to go through, I definitely need the help – there’s no way I could do them all on my own,” says Sarah Maclagan, PhD candidate at Deakin University and leader of the bandicoot project.

“The response from volunteers has been incredibly helpful and revealing,” says Jenny Davis, Head of the School of Environment at Charles Darwin University.

“The images captured near a waterhole are our most recent pictures. They show plenty of frogs, thanks to summer rainfall. I’m looking forward to analysing the results.”

Wildlife Spotter is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2016, undertaken by ABC Science in conjunction with the Australian Museum, Deakin University, Charles Darwin University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Tasmanian Land Conservancy, and WWF Australia. It is supported by funding from the Australian Government Inspiring Australia strategy.

Seventeen ecologists, zoologists, scientists and science communicators from around the country are available for interviews about Wildlife Spotter.

Read on for information about their projects. Media kit, images, and other resources at www.scienceinpublic.com.au.

To organise interviews, contact:

More about the project

emuSign up at the Wildlife Spotter website at www.wildlifespotter.net.au. There you’ll find instructions for classifying the different species in the images. You’ll be allocated photographs to study.

Your first batch should take no more than a few minutes to analyse. But you can do as many as you like. Each image will be classified by five different people to see if the results agree.

Everyone with regular vision and a computer or tablet with access to the internet can get involved and help our scientists find out who lives in our wild and urban areas.

Participants can get started straight away, and they can register for a chance win a Go Pro Hero 4 camera. And schools have the chance to win a visit from Dr Karl Kruszelnicki to their school.

Our vast country represents a huge area for field scientists to cover if they’re to monitor numbers and health of wildlife species in our changing environment.

Automated cameras, or ‘camera traps’, help scientists cover a lot of ground and observe animals in their natural environment by sensing movement, which triggers a photo to be taken. And they work through the night, with infrared or heat-sensing cameras.

With cameras like these set up all over Australia, millions of photos are generated, creating a huge picture of the different species that live around us. But scientists need help to go through all of the photos.

The projects you’ll be supporting

  • Bandicoots in south-central Victoria – a pocket of threatened bandicoots are thriving on Victoria’s urban fringes, but how are they doing this? And what happens when they start living in drains and eating out of cat food bowls? Help monitor their population and keep an eye on their predators.
  • Marsupials in Tasmania – Tasmanian Land Conservancy manages about 15 biodiversity reserves to protect these unique species. Help their conservation scientists keep an eye on bandicoots, bettongs and potoroos—and the threats to them, such as feral cats and deer—so they can better manage these sanctuaries for wildlife.
  • Northern bettongs in Far North Queensland – Australia’s rat-kangaroo is a rare marsupial. Help scientists work out how many of this threatened species are left.
  • Animals in NSW – How many wombats, pademelons, kangaroos, foxes and other animals are out there? We simply don’t know. Help the ‘WildCount’ scientists find out.
  • Northern Territory’s arid zone – What wild things—such as dingos, emus, lizards, spinifex pigeons, kangaroos and mice—are living in the arid lands? Counting animals at waterholes in Watarrka National Park and the desert in Kata Tjuta National Park will help scientists manage these biodiversity hotspots.
  • Managing malleefowl – How often are foxes visiting the native malleefowl’s large mound nest of earth and decomposing leaf litter? And how can we help keep them safe?

Read more about these projects at www.wildlifespotter.net.au