Where’s wallaby? Last call for online wildlife spotters

Monday 5 September 2016

The ABC’s Wildlife Spotter project and competition closes at midnight tonight. But the project has been so successful that the wildlife spotting will continue into the future.

emu In just one month, 44,000 citizen scientists have classified frogs, feral cats, bettongs, bandicoots, birds, Tassie devils, dingoes, and other animals caught on camera in more than 1.6 million images as part of the ABC’s citizen science project Wildlife Spotter. This breaks the record of last year’s Galaxy Explorer project, which involved 20,000 people helping astronomers classify galaxies far, far away.

Volunteer wildlife spotters have collectively spent more than 16,000 hours assisting scientific research by identifying two million animals in the images. 

“We’ve had reports of northern quolls, foxes stealing malleefowl eggs, wedge-tailed eagles, and ‘lion-like’ dogs,” says Kylie Andrews, coordinator of the project at the ABC.

“But there’s still more work to be done, and the competition to win a Go-Pro or a visit from Dr Karl to your school is finishing tonight at 11.59pm. The more images you classify, the more entries you get.”

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. Once the competition finishes, the Australian Museum will take over the initiative, so that citizen scientists and wildlife lovers can keep helping scientists by spotting animals online.

Ecologists and animal behaviour researchers will use the findings to study the numbers, threats, and behaviour of our unique Australian wildlife, such as endangered bettongs and bandicoots, superb lyrebirds, common wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

“I’m so thrilled with how Wildlife Spotter is working,” says Jess Koleck, coordinator of WWF Australia’s northern bettong monitoring project, one of six projects that have submitted images to Wildlife Spotter.

“Aside from the obvious benefit of having hundreds of thousands of camera trap images identified, it makes me so happy that people from all over Australia are seeing images of and learning about relatively unknown and threatened native mammals.”

“Northern bettongs are such an integral part of their ecosystem, but the plight of these endangered animals is largely unknown to the Australian public. Wildlife Spotter has been a fantastic way to get the broader community involved in what we are doing, helping them get to know this adorable species and hopefully playing a role in its recovery.”

Wildlife Spotter is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2016, undertaken by the ABC 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 at www.scienceinpublic.com.au.

To organise interviews, contact Ellie Michaelides on ellie@scienceinpublic.com.au, 0404 809 789 or 03 9398 1416

Feedback from citizen scientists

“I’m enjoying the classification – it’s like a treasure hunt!”

“I find this quite engaging…especially in the South Central Victoria set when there was a close up of a goshawk eating something in the picture. Also I feel as if I’m learning to identify animals new to me.”

“It’s been pretty exciting doing this – I’ve seen a dingo chasing frogs in mid leap, a naughty fox digging up a malleefowl nest, and a wedge-tailed eagle taking a luxurious bath. Thank you, I have to say I am enjoying the whole experience.”

“I just identified my first ‘quoll’ in North Qld – stoked!  I told a like-minded family about this initiative on Tuesday and they did 100 photos in the first night alone. I’m glad it’s not just me who is a little addicted! Congratulations and thanks again to everyone involved in creating this program.”

“Some of the images I have seen are truly breathtaking – I feel privileged to be seeing some of these – an echidna and malleefowl side-by-side (almost cuddling!), a quail, a wild dog/dingo cross that had me wondering if it was a lioness (only kidding!).  Honestly, this is so much fun and my husband and two kids jump on and help too.”

“This is a great tool, and generally very easy to use as well as being extremely useful for the monitoring projects – great work!”

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 its 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