The Great Koala Count is now underway but organisers say it’s not to late for ‘citizen scientists’ to grab their smartphones and play a pivotal part in this important project.
The inaugural Great Koala Count runs from from November 7 to 17 and aims to track down every koala in NSW and southeast Queensland.
It is run by the National Parks Association of NSW and the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative – and everyone is invited to join.
The count aims to build a more accurate picture of koala locations and distributions by enlisting the public to record and submit information about koalas in their area.
‘During the Count, we are asking our citizen scientists to use BioTag, a GPS-enabled smartphone app, to record the location of any koalas they find and answer a few observational questions about the koala, its habitat and threats,’ said Dr Gráinne Cleary, wildlife ecologist with the National Parks Association.
‘The questions are specifically chosen for scientific analysis, and if we get lots of people participating we’ll be able to get some pretty important koala information that will be vital for conservation efforts’, she added.
The count will serve to complement existing koala data and organisers hope to conduct it annually to show trends in koala populations, movement and habitat use over time.
According to Dr Cleary 80 per cent of koalas live on private land, with only 20 per cent living in protected areas, such as nature reserves and national parks.
‘Local knowledge based on previous sightings means people living in koala areas often know where to go looking,’ she said.
‘We need to know where koalas have been sighted, as well as where they are absent. Recent events such as the devastating bushfires impact on koala colonies and habitat and by using citizen science we can monitor this and plan the best conservation responses,’ she added.
To join in, participants need to register at www.koalacount.org.au and then download BioTag to their smartphone. The free app makes it easy for people to record the GPS location of the area that they have searched and relevant information about the sighting. This information is then directly uploaded to NPA’s Data Portal which links to the Atlas of Living Australia. Individuals who do not have access to a smartphone can enter their observations via the website. Data for the count can be recorded any time during the period November 7 to 17.
‘This is an opportunity for people directly to contribute to the conservation of one of our most-loved animals. The success of the program relies on getting as many people out counting in as many areas as possible. So grab your phone, your walking shoes and a friend and get out into our great outdoors and start counting,’ urged Dr Cleary.