We are pleased to be involved once again in an eDNA citizen science program detecting wildlife and supporting species recovery on a grand scale.
Following the success of the Great Australian Platypus Search pilot in Victoria, a new and improved program, coined the ‘Great Australian Wildlife Search’, will roll out across Australia.
The search is being coordinated by the Odonata Foundation, and also involves Melbourne-based lab EnviroDNA, Latrobe University, the Department of Planning and Environment NSW, and others.
The search involves a thorough citizen science data collection program, and will start with a thousand or more sites across NSW, from the most remote corners of the state to metropolitan cities.
What’s different about the Great Australian Wildlife Search?
Once again, simple collection techniques will be used by citizen scientists to collect water samples.
The difference is that this time, the EnviroDNA team will be able to detect terrestrial species, as well as aquatic species like platypus. This is possible through the shedding of genetic material (DNA). As animals disperse across the landscape, they shed genetic material which ends up in our streams and rivers. Tiny amounts of DNA can be detected in water by highly sensitive lab equipment, and can be matched against known genetic codes to identify the species.
Importance of this data for saving our species
This data will be hugely important in determining the presence or absence of species, especially in areas that have been historically difficult to survey with other methods. By analysing this data, ecologists and geneticists can develop population models, and build a sophisticated picture of where different species occur in the landscape.
A widespread, coordinated, and scientifically robust approach like this has never been attempted on such a large geographic scale. The enormous data set generated will form the basis of population recovery and management actions for different species, making this one of the most significant citizen science and biodiversity research projects in history.
Last year, Carbon Landscapes connected the dots to bring many Victorian partners together for the platypus search. We also helped to determine the location of testing sites across the State. We will play a similar role this time around, and conversations are already being held on the selection criteria and geographic distribution of sites across NSW.
We’re proud to be involved in this emerging, exciting, and critical work for our native species.
Keen to learn more? You can read the write up of this fantastic initiative in the July-August ‘22 edition of the Australian Geographic magazine!