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Victorian National Parks Association

  • Project: Communities Listening for Nature
  • Amount: $186,850 over three years
  • Year(s) Funded: 2016

A citizen science project empowers community volunteers to inform local biodiversity challenges

Communities Listening for Nature is a community-based science project delivered in partnership with Museum Victoria to help build critical knowledge of Victoria’s bird species. It uses recent advances in acoustic recording and automated sound recognition to improve detection of regional bird populations for conservation and land management.

Volunteers collecting data. Photo courtesy: It’s a Wildlife photography

“I’m inspired by what a group of community volunteers, scientists and land managers can achieve when they put their heads together. These bird calls will help us understand so much more about what birds are up to in our local landscapes and across Victoria.” Christine Connelly, NatureWatch Coordinator

Until recently, traditional survey methods have required volunteers to count all the birds they see and hear in a specific location for a known amount of time, a process which relies heavily on the availability of experts who are able to identify species correctly in a short time period. The development of new technologies to record animals and birds in their natural environments enables citizen scientists to collect sound data at many sites simultaneously and for longer periods than traditional observational methods allow.

  • 60 community volunteers were trained and equipped to undertake acoustic monitoring of birds using new equipment (song meters).
  • A combined total of 734 volunteer days took place in the field, equating to 3,928 volunteer hours.
  • The project established five project locations in: Kurth Kiln Regional Park/Bunyip State Park; Mt Worth State Park; Wombat State Park; Mt Alexander; and Brisbane Ranges.
  • Specially designed software was used to scan the field recordings and match to a sound template, dramatically reducing the time it takes to identify if a species of interest is present; 172 bird species were verified throughout the five project locations.
  • 32,282 hours of collected acoustic data is now permanently stored in Museum Victoria’s publicly available sound library, as well as uploaded to the Atlas of Living Australia.
  • The data collected will be used to investigate locally relevant questions such as whether a threatened species is present in an area, how a key fire-response species is responding to planned burning, and whether there is a difference in bird diversity in particular vegetation types.
  • The permanent digital records will help researchers, land managers and government bodies address conservation and management issues in Victoria now and into the future.