Each week Cosmos takes a look at projects and news about Citizen Science in Australia. This week we’re thinking about keeping wildlife safe from human-made obstacles, and considering the spread and prevalence of Australian mosquito species.
Entangled Wildlife Australia
Generally speaking, fences and nets aren’t fabulous for wildlife. Animals can become entangled in barbed wire, caught in fruit-tree netting and snared by discarded fishing line, tackle or nets. Terrible injuries are routine; deaths are frequent. Flying foxes, seabirds, water fowl, gliders, owls, marine mammals and turtles, macropods and reptiles are among the entangled species.
This project aims to create an Australia-wide database to identify risk hotspots, key risk factors and the range (and prevalence) of species affected. It was inspired by the Wildlife Friendly Fencing initiative.
To get involved, record and photograph any sightings of native animals that have been entangled here at the Atlas of Living Australia. If the entangled animal is alive (or if you’re unsure) please first call your nearest wildlife rescue group before recording the sighting.
If the animal is clearly dead, please record this and include a photo – both for verification purposes and to minimise possible record duplication. To minimise stress on injured and already stressed animals, please ensure that you take photographs from an appropriate distance.
Mosquitoes are vectors for several pathogens, one of which – malaria – consistently ranks as the world’s most consistent killer. Globally, there are thought to be more than 200 million malaria cases each year, and more than 400,000 deaths, most among young children.
Mozzie Monitors aims to increase scientific data on the makeup of mosquito communities in Australia, and to raise awareness of mosquitoes’ ecological and epidemiological importance. The project was launched in 2018 by University of South Australia research group Healthy Environments, Healthy People.
In the first year citizen scientists and researchers collected and identified more than 10,000 mosquitoes. Among the most commonly collected were several vector species that can transmit infectious diseases such as Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses.
Mozzie Monitors is now going to its next phase, and you can participate in one of two groups. Either (1) setting a mozzie monitors trap, photographing the catch and emailing the photo into the research team; or (2) using the iNaturalist app to record any sightings/encounters with mosquitoes that you may have during the period – this will provide researchers with a real-time and location information about mosquito distribution. You can also learn about identification by using the app.
To get started, you can email the research team or download the iNaturalist app.
Watch a short film about the project for free as part of SCINEMA International Science Film Festival by signing up here.
Cape Solander Whale Migration Study
There’s good citizen science news from a whale count.
Retired diesel mechanic Wayne Reynolds has counted humpbacks from a windy rock shelf in Sydney’s south every winter for the past 23 years and coordinates the Cape Solander Whale Migration Study, one of Australia’s longest-running citizen science programs.
The research Reynolds has contributed to – published in a recent paper in the scientific journal Marine Mammal Science – shows a remarkable recovery in the humpback whale population.
Reynolds is possibly the only co-author published in Marine Mammal Science who never attended university, and co-author Vanessa Pirotta, of Macquarie University’s Marine Predator Research Group, praises his contribution.
But Reynolds shrugs it off: “Vanessa and the others did the hard stuff of writing it all up.”
Since 1997, the number of migrating humpback whales have increased by 10% per year on average. An estimated 30,000 humpback whales now make the annual journey from Antarctica along Australia’s east coast to the Great Barrier Reef and back again.
“You have to be a bit mad to do it,” says Reynolds. “[The Cape Solander watchers] reckon we’ll write a book one day: it will be all the dumb questions people come up and ask us when we’re there.”
Ian Connellan is editor-in-chief of the Royal Institution of Australia.
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