Check out the first edition of the CCWA Citizen Science newsletter! You can get the newsletter straight to your inbox every month by subscribing in the form on the CCWA Citizen Science page.
My name is Kelly Sheldrick. After spending 15 years overseas, I’m super pumped to return to WA and embark on this new journey as Citizen Science Programs Manager at the Conservation Council of WA!
As many of you don’t know me yet, I thought I’d share a little bit about myself. I was born in the Perth Hills and after uni left the nest to live and experience different countries and cultures, which has led me to having quite a varied background. Most recently I’ve been working as an ecologist in the UK, whilst spending my free time running community wildlife surveys and events for different groups and organisations.
As part of exchanging knowledge, I’d like to welcome you to the first edition of our new, monthly Citizen Science newsletter!
The newsletter will aim to:
- Share exciting opportunities to get involved with CCWA citizen science projects
- Share outcomes and updates from previous and ongoing citizen science projects
- Share news and other exciting citizen science projects from across the state
Each month we will highlight a few of our members' Citizen Science projects. If you have an exciting Citizen Science project coming up and would like it featured in our monthly Citizen Science newsletter, you can let us know here.
I hope you enjoy!
Kelly at CCWA Citizen Science
Our Citizen Science program
Firstly, let's take a step back... what is citizen science?
Citizen Science is all about actively working with the community by engaging citizen scientists to take part in projects that
- generate new understanding
- contribute to meaningful research
- allow the exchange of knowledge
What is the CCWA Citizen Science Program?
The CCWA Citizen Science Program is as much about the community as it is about the research! Our program aims to be fully inclusive by offering something for everyone - no matter your experience, your location, or your availability, you as citizen scientists will have the opportunity to take part in meaningful projects that will help fill some of the current research gaps.
What are the projects?
We have been working away at an exciting Citizen Science Program, some of which is still in the planning stages, but here is a taster of what to expect:
- WA Bat Monitoring Program (WABMP) – become a ‘Bat Champion’ and take part in a broad-scale, long-term bat monitoring program designed to help fill some of the knowledge gaps on bats in WA. More about this program below!
- Spring Dusk Watch – no matter where in WA you are, join us by exploring the outdoors at sunset whilst recording the animals you see and hear to help track the movement and distribution of native and invasive species.
- Biodiversity monitoring using eDNA - help monitor biodiversity by collecting eDNA samples or by ‘blasting’ biological sequences
- Tending the Tracks – working with local 4WD and community groups to improve the tracks, raise conservation awareness and protect the environment for future generations
- Tending the Trails – like Tending the Tracks, but with a focus on working with cyclists, local community groups and mountain bike trails
We also have a few ongoing and a few new Citizen Science projects to get involved in – read on to find out more!
The Little Penguin Project
Our State NRM funded Little Penguin project is moving into its second year, bringing with it more opportunities to get involved with vital conservation research and initiatives.
For those not familiar with the project, CCWA worked in collaboration with leading penguin and seabird experts to produce the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Little Penguin. The document provides an overview of the observed and potential impacts of climate change on the Penguin Island colony and highlights potential interventions that can be implemented to mitigate these effects.
The Conservation Council of WA was granted a state NRM community stewardship grant to execute some of the actions outlined in the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. To date this has included citizen science nest box research, monitoring and insightful seabird seminars, of which we had our most recent in June 2023.
Reach out to Kelly at the link below to get involved in this year’s Little Penguin Project!
WA Bat Monitoring Program
Bats make up about 20% of all mammal species, yet there are lots of ‘unknowns’ about bats in Western Australia. This makes it difficult for us to assess how populations are faring across the state and to identify the extent of impacts on these populations resulting from pressures such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and other disturbances.
By setting up a broad-scale, long-term bat monitoring program we will be able to answer some of these unknown questions. We will be able to:
- Determine current distribution ranges and populations for our bats and look at changes and trends in these populations over time.
- Monitor the impact of habitat loss, fragmentation, and climate change on our bat populations over time.
- Provide better protection and management for bats and their habitat, including enhancing IUCN red list assessments of bat species.
Why should we care?
- Did you know one little microbat can eat over 1000 insects (including mozzies and other pest species) in just one night? Bats are an important part of our ecosystem and play a role as natural pest controllers! They help keep our insect populations in check.
- Bats are not only great indicators of ecosystem health, but they also aid soil quality by providing natural fertilisers (yes, I’m referring to bat guano or bat poo, and yes, it makes excellent fertiliser - some countries have even farmed and sold it!)
- Just like us, bats are incredibly social animals with complex social structures and family groups. They are also incredibly long-lived for a mammal of their size with the oldest known bat living to 41 years. The photo above is a little family of barbastelle bats – grandma, mum and the two daughters have been found roosting together in the same box for multiple years!
How can I get involved? Become a Bat Champion!
Citizen Scientists will be able to join the WA Bat Monitoring Project (WABMP) by becoming a ‘bat champion’ and get involved with one (or more) of our Citizen Science bat monitoring opportunities. We hope to offer something for everyone, no matter what your experience, the time you have available, or your age.
Some ways ‘bat champions’ can get involved will include:
- Roost counts - counting bats as they emerge from a bat roost (know of a bat roost location? See below)
- Bat walks – setting up and walking a set transect route, whilst recording the bats you see and hear using innovative bat detecting technology to collect data about bat activity in the area
- Bat call acoustic analysis - learning and assisting with the analysis of bat calls collected from bat walks and roost assessments
There will also be the opportunity to get involved with bat echolocation call collection and bat detector building workshops. Plus, we will be looking for some awesome people to help mind and manage the bat detectors. So, there are lots of opportunities to get involved with the project!
Full training and support will be given. More info to be shared in the coming months.
Feeling artsy? Submit a design to our bat logo competition!
To give you the chance to show off your design skills - and because the community is such an important part of this program - we thought we’d take this opportunity to run a bat logo competition.
What are we looking for: a cute or cool bat for a logo for the WA Bat Monitoring Program!
• Submissions can include bat drawings, illustrations, photos – whatever you like
• Text in logo design isn’t a requirement - it can just be an image
• There is no limit on the number of submissions
For inspiration, we’ve included a couple of bats and bat logos already out there, but feel free to be as creative as you like.
Submit your entries to [email protected] by 1st September.
You’ll have the opportunity to vote for the winning logo from our list of finalists.
Finalist: Bat-themed hamper
Bat roost counts - let us know about your bat roosts!
Little is known about bat roosts in WA and the first step in finding out more is to locate them – that's where you can help!
What is a bat roost?
Put simply, a bat roost is literally somewhere that bats hang out!
Bats use a range of different structures to roost in, these can include trees (bats particularly love old mature trees, where they can roost in hollows, under lifted bark and in cracks), crevices in walls or under tiles, in bridges, in caves or old mines and of course bat boxes.
Bats will often roost switch (switch roosts every few days) and/or move roost throughout the year depending on the season. So even if bats aren’t present in a roost now, if they were there previously, then it’s likely a bat roost and we’d still love to hear about it!
Once we have a better picture of roost locations and types, we plan to set up some citizen science roost counts. How this will look will depend on the roosts we find.
Exact roost locations will not be publicised to ensure their protection and the privacy of any landowners that are fortunate enough to host a bat roost (same goes for barn owl roosts – see below).
If you know of a bat roost please let us know at the link below!
Other citizen science news
Let us know about your barn owl roosts!
It's not only bat roosts we're interested in finding out more about, we're also on the lookout for barn owl roosts!
We're currently scoping out the potential of another citizen science project involving owl pellets, so if you have a barn owl roost on your property or if you know of one in your area, please get in touch at the link below:
The Fairy Tern project
As part of the Citizen Science program, CCWA facilitated a Fairy Tern conservation project between 2016 and 2022. The program was managed in conjunction with the WA Fairy Tern Network and with the support of the State NRM and the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council NRM. Get involved and keep up to date with the project by visiting the Fairy Tern Conservation Group Facebook page.
Birdlife: Birds on Farms
Our friends at Birdlife have launched a new citizen science project! This project is connecting rural landholders with citizen scientists across Western Australia’s agricultural region.
The project provides rural landholders and other participants with opportunities to be involved in regular bird monitoring surveys, site visits, training workshops and events, and access to subsidies for on-ground works.
As part of this project there are a series of informative webinars coming up in July!
Session 1: Birds on Farms - A National Program
13 July 6.00 pm
Discover the Birds on Farms national program and its goals, featuring special guest Caroline Wilson from Victoria's Birds on Farms team.
Session 2: All Things Birdwatching - Birdata & Bird Identification
20 July 6.00 pm
Master the use of Birdata for recording bird observations and explore bird identification techniques, focusing on species found in Western Australia's Wheatbelt.
Session 3: Habitat and Survey Sites
27 July 6.00 pm
Understand the significance of selecting optimal survey sites, filling in habitat assessment forms, and studying birds in various habitat types and productive systems.
Find out more through Birdlife WA Facebook Events
Frog ID: Frogs need your help this winter!
You may be aware that there was a devasting mass mortality event in Australia’s vulnerable frog population during the winter of 2021.
Researchers found that a substantial portion of the deaths were caused by an unknown pathogen, toxin, or environmental process, and not the expected amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis).
This winter in WA there have already been reports of dead frogs that are potentially showing signs of this unknown process. By reporting these incidents, you will be helping to monitor the health of our frogs this winter and detect and respond to any mass mortality of frogs (should it occur).
So how can you help?
If you see a frog that is discoloured, has patchy skin, is lethargic, is lying out in the middle of the day or is dead please:
- Take a photo, make a note of the location and date/ time
- If alive, take the frog to a wildlife hospital or vet for assessment
- Send the photo and details to the Australian Museum’s citizen science project FrogID via [email protected]
To learn more about this serious conservation issue impacting Australia’s frog species you can check out this article 'Frogs need your help again this winter' or this insightful webinar hosted by the Australian Museum.
What is Frog ID?
FrogID is a national citizen science project run by the Australian Museum to monitor frog distributions over time, and help us better understand how frogs, and their ecosystems, are responding to a changing planet, as well as help to identify mass mortalities like we witnessed in 2021.
To get involved, simply download the Frog ID app to your phone and submit the photos of the frogs you see through the app.
WA Museum: Snail Snap 2023
A community initiative set up by the WA Museum to help further our knowledge about a group of endemic land snails, Bothriembryon, affectionately called ‘Boths’.
How can I take part?
During the winter months keep an eye out for live crawling snails or even their empty shells and then upload any sightings to the iNaturalist app. WA Museum scientists will then identify and provide feedback about your snail sighting.
Check out WA Museum’s website for more information on this year’s Snail Snap and to download the recent training audio and presentation slides.
Planting Seeds: B&B BioBlitz – one for schools!
The national B&B BioBlitz is calling on school citizen scientists to help gather information about Australia’s biodiversity during National Biodiversity month from the 1st – 22nd Sept (National Threatened Species Day). Full training and support provided.
Further information about the B&B BioBlitz, including the requirements, workshop dates and registration is on the Planting Seeds website.