I’ve always loved the idea of citizen science, whether that be recording sightings of animals in my garden, planting trees, or getting involved with conservation projects.
So when I was asked to get involved with the citizen science project Numbat Discovery a few months ago while stuck at home sick, I jumped at the chance.
Numbat Discovery forms part of Anke Seidlitz’s PhD project with World Wildlife Fund Australia, Murdoch University and WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. Small endangered marsupials, numbats have declining populations, and are extremely elusive, making surveys in their dense forest habitats challenging.
In order to study numbats and other animals in the Upper Warren region in WA, 50 camera traps were set up in various locations. 10 images were taken each time movement was detected, which meant thousands of images were generated every day – far too many for a few scientists to analyse themselves.
Enter Zooniverse, an online platform for ‘people-powered research’. Almost 2,000 volunteers have got on board with Numbat Discovery, helping to classify over 95% of images in just four months.
This project has been so fun to be a part of. The fact that I can learn about an interstate region and contribute to conservation studies of endangered Australian animals from my couch is something I find incredible.
Watching animals like bettongs, kangaroos, wallabies, possums and quolls go about their business, you really get a feel for their personalities, and I certainly learnt a lot about their behavioural quirks through this project!
For example, did you know Brush-tailed Bettongs drag themselves along the floor to stretch their limbs? That they carry copious amounts of nesting materials curled under their tails? That when spotting the camera western grey kangaroos generally appear like they’ve been caught up to no good?
In an era where there is such a disconnect and lack of understanding between the general public and scientists, I think fun projects like these are the perfect platform to start getting people excited about conservation.
Are you involved with any Zooniverse projects? Let me know in the comments!