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We're excited to announce the start of a new NatureTrackers citizen science project, tentatively named Ping! Chirp! Squeak! And we need your help!
This new project builds on two citizen science programs currently underway: Where? Where? Wedgie!, which monitors Tasmania's raptor populations and Claws On The Line which is keeping track of our burrowing crayfish species.
We're going to use sound recorders to count and monitor noisy species including bats (Ping!), birds (Chirp!) and mammals (Squeak!). We'll start with a pilot project this year targeting bats and bitterns, both of which have distinctive calls. This has been made possible thanks to Wildlife Acoustics, who have granted us five brand spanking new Song Meter Mini Bat recorders. The main aim of the pilot project is to hone our technique. Next year we'll hope to begin expanding with more recorders, participants and target species to eventually establish an end-to-end NatureTrackers project for long-term acoustic monitoring across Tasmania.
This monitoring approach has been extensively proven effective elsewhere in the world for bats (e.g. the Norfolk Bat Survey), and for guiding risk reduction of specific activities (e.g. identifying where wind farm plans could put bat species at risk). Recent work in New Zealand has also generated very encouraging results for Australasian bitterns.
Fewer than 15% of Tasmania's threatened species, and a much lower proportion of our other species, are monitored to assess whether conservation efforts are adequate and effective. Yet for many, known and potential threats are increasing and changing across the state.
Tasmania's bat species are not listed as threatened, but are not monitored. Current potential threats include ongoing removal of hollow-bearing trees, in which these bats roost and breed, and pesticides. Wind farms, a known threat to bats elsewhere, are rapidly increasing across Tasmania. Emerging diseases are also considered a concern on the mainland.
The Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) was nationally listed as Endangered after the lengthy Millennium Drought (1996-2010), which exacerbated losses of the bird's wetland habitat due to ongoing drainage and development. Subsequent monitoring efforts across Australia were not maintained, and its current status is poorly understood, but localised monitoring in the Riverina indicates continuing decline. With ongoing climate change and associated droughts, these problems can be expected to worsen.
We will start with the pilot project this summer using 5 recorders and a limited number of participants. This is to help get our procedures and data pipeline established. If all goes well, then - starting in the second half of 2022 - we'll begin an expanded survey with more recorders and more citizen scientists.
If you've participated in Where? Where? Wedgie! then some things will look familiar. Here's a complete description of how it will work.
That's great, we can't do this without you! Please fill out the questionnaire below and submit by October 8:Create your own user feedback survey
Photo credits in linking Latest Updates page:
Bittern: Wayne Butterworth https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australasian_Bittern_(cropped).jpg
Lesser long-eared bat: Michael Pennay