Alumni Update | Issue Five 2014

Citizen Science

From Koala Count to BioBlitz

Collage of past projects
UniSA has embraced a fresh scientific method which harnesses people power, and it’s looking for volunteers.

Citizen science is a progressive form of scientific research where, as the name suggests, community members assist professional scientists with their work. These ‘citizen scientists’ are usually involved in developing project ideas then gathering or analysing data.
One of the UniSA Citizen Science program’s successes was its Great Koala Count in 2012, which saw over 1100 volunteer citizen scientists reporting koala locations. The data collected from the day, including over 1300 reports and 950 photos, was used to determine suitable South Australian koala habitats and estimate the koala population in the Adelaide Hills.

Dr Philip Roetman, a Barbara Hardy Institute Research Fellow, is now looking for volunteers to take part in South Australia’s first ‘BioBlitz’ as part of National Science Week, to be held at Harry Bowey Reserve in Salisbury (22-23 August) and the newly opened Oaklands Wetlands in Marion (29-30 August).

“At a BioBlitz, you will be able to work alongside scientists, learning about and recording the wildlife that live in these parks, everything from brightly-coloured beetles to seldom-seen bats,” Dr Roetman says.

“We’re planning other projects to explore the lives of urban cats and the travels of little corellas through citizen science.”

“You’ll also have the opportunity to tell us what projects you think would be valuable – perhaps you know a place where you can experience nature and you want to share it with others, or a spot or a species that needs our attention because it is under threat.”

He believes citizen science is valuable because both amateurs and professionals alike have something to gain from it.

“What I find really exciting about this kind of work is the exchange of information between scientists and citizen scientists, allowing us all to learn about our fascinating wildlife and environments,” Dr Roetman says.

“There is a huge variety of citizen science projects around the world, engaging millions of people who contribute to interesting and important research.”

“Citizen scientists can classify galaxies for astronomers, play games to further bio-chemistry research, or report animal sightings to contribute to ecological research.”

To find out more about the Barbara Hardy Institute Citizen Science program and its exciting new projects, subscribe to its newsletter at http://unisa.edu.au/citizenscience

The program is also currently running a special offer on its Possum and Magpie guide books, which explore the behaviours of these animals and how people interact with and manage them. Proceeds from book sales go to further research and education programs.

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