An island community in South Australia hopes to capture the imagination of an influx of tourists to help gather data on a wide range of citizen science projects which come in the wake of the bushfires.
Visitors will become more deeply entrenched in the community, have alternative holiday activities, and learn more about the environment and science.
Other Australian tourism communities could adapt the project for themselves.
For those planning on visiting Kangaroo Island in South Australia during the holiday season they can now do much more than just take in the breathtaking sights – they’re invited to join the Passport to Recovery (P2R) citizen science project this summer.
Through P2R tourists and locals alike will we able to participate in a range of citizen science projects, helping to collect data that scientists will use to improve conservation outcomes across this important ‘biological hotspot’ over the next three years.
The island’s community, species, environment, and economy were devastated by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20. But according to program leader, Professor Karen Burke da Silva, a conservation biologist from Flinders University, P2R will help promote its ongoing recovery.
“By simply getting involved, everyone can play a part in helping our favourite holiday destination get further along with its post-fire revival,” says Burke da Silva.
“Flinders University is working with key community and business partners to help with the environmental recovery, as well as the local economy.
“All you need to do is to download the app onto your phone and pick up a P2R Passport from the SeaLink ferry terminal or Kingscote Airport, to help with these key projects.”
As a part of this new $1.1 million Federal Government-backed program, users of the app will collect reward points for each completed activity, which can be redeemed at local businesses.
The first projects citizen scientists can get involved in include:
- Smart Nests – make observations at the special Flinders University technology-integrated bee hotels around the island, helping track native bee activity.
- Reef Rewind – a project focusing on the potential to re-establish native shellfish reefs in Kingscote. Help record sea life while swimming and snorkelling on the restoration reef to monitor its development.
- Koala Compass –locate and collect photos and data on koala behaviour and habitats during travels around the island. The information will be used to explore koala movements back into bushfire-effected areas.
- Dirty Boots – report evidence of the small plant pathogen phytophthora (a water mould) and take a small soil sample from your shoes for analysis by experts. Phytophthora dieback disease can spread easily and affects crops and susceptible plants which might be important habitat for animals and insects.
“The aim of this project is to engage citizen scientists to take part in activities to provide us with data so we can generate far more information about the impact of this plant pathogen, both on native plants and crops,” says Flinders environmental health expert Professor Kirstin Ross.
“We’re also pleased to be able to show people, of any age, how to be citizen scientists and find out how much fun and enjoyable science actually is.”
Other projects – including microplastics pollution and other species observations – will roll out in 2023. Visit the website to learn more and download the app.
Not visiting KI anytime soon? Not to worry, there’s likely plenty of local citizen science projects near you. Not to mention the treasure-trove of online projects! Read more to help find one that suits you.
Imma Perfetto is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.
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