What is Citizen Science?

Streamwatch

Citizen Science is the collection and analysis of data collected by the general public to be used for scientific research. It is usually done collaboratively with professional scientists. It can also be described as public participation in scientific research.

Citizen science is very important as it enables scientists to collect data that would otherwise be impossible or expensive to collect by themselves. With the help of modern technology, people from all over the world can contribute to scientific studies by sharing data with each other.

Community Groups

Scientists often work with community groups as they may already be involved in similar projects, for example if they are working to help their local wildlife, and the citizen science program involves identifying wildlife species, then this collaboration will assist both parties in reaching their goals. The community groups are especially helpful as they can help by promoting the project to bring in new people, to generate ideas, and engage with scientists for advice.

A community group will have a variety of people with different skills and backgrounds too,  so scientists will be able to utilize these skills to expand their project and data collection methods. Volunteers can include kids, school students, amateur scientists, retirees and educators.

Citizen science programs are also a great opportunity for students and other volunteers to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area.  Looking into volunteering opportunities that relate to your studies will greatly increase your chances in getting a job.

Citizen Science at CHEN

If you are looking into working in the environment field, whether it is on the research or community engagement side of things, volunteering with a group that increases knowledge and gives you valuable skills, will be very beneficial to your future career.

CHEN has a Landcare group that includes bush regeneration and citizen science opportunities. Our citizen science opportunities include, water quality testing which is in collaboration with Streamwatch; identifying and taking hollow measurements, which is in collaboration with Hollows as Homes; and Frog ID which is in collaboration with the Australian Museum.

We also partake in bush regeneration activities which is not a citizen science project but does provide you with knowledge and skills related to land management and plant identification.

If you want to get ahead in your career by partaking in such activities, please contact us to get involved.

Please email, danielle@chen.org.au for more information, otherwise click this link to be added to the Fred Caterson Landcare Group where you can keep up to date with what we are doing and come along!

 

Platypus eDNA water sampling – thank you to volunteers

Platypus eDNA water sampling – thank you to volunteers

Our sampling would not have been possible without the generosity of volunteer citizen scientists (including a number of CHEN members) and students from Western Sydney University (WSU).

A couple of our eDNA testing sites were located on O’Haras Creek and Scaly Bark Creek on the outskirts of Kenthurst.  A particular thank you to Andrew Callaghan the Captain of the Kenthurst Rural Fire Service who very kindly agreed to help our eDNA water sampling team get to these sampling sites that were accessed by local fire trails.  We visited some beautiful spots and what appeared to be some good platypus habitat.

Andrew Callaghan (Captain, Kenthurst Rural Fire Service), Jacqueline Britton (Cattai Aware Project Officer) and Anja McKimmie (CHEN member) at O’Haras Creek, Kenthurst

 

Gabrielle Sabatino (WSU Undergraduate student) and Katherine Morrison (WSU PhD candidate) eDNA water sampling on Cattai Creek

 

Platypus eDNA testing results are in!!

Platypus eDNA testing results are in!!

Some very exciting news to share! The results of our eDNA tests have arrived. Western Sydney University have written all about it in their article “Evidence of platypus population found near major Sydney urban development“.

The Key Points are:

  • Citizen scientists and Western Sydney University researchers have found DNA evidence of platypus in north-west Sydney
  • The findings give credibility to historical sightings over the years
  • The discovery also comes amid major urban development of the area

Way to go CHENer’s and Western Sydney University!

Read the full article from WSU here.

We’re now going to think about how we move forward to protect this unique and iconic species in our Catchment.

Collecting an eDNA sample

Collecting an eDNA sample

How do you take and eDNA sample?

A little more on the eDNA sampling from the last post. The photos here show the filter after each syringe of water has been passed through. You can see the colour change after each syringe, the last one being quite striated and dark. As DNA is in the water, the aim is to pass as much water through the filter as you can- more water means more DNA collected to test and the greater the chance of detecting your target species (or a greater range of species if you do a broad test). 👩‍🔬

You stop filtering water through the filter when the pressure becomes too great and it is no longer possible to.

 

What does it tell us?

 The samples of DNA that we collected last about 5 days in the environment before they are too damaged to be used in testing. This means that if you get a positive results, the species has been their very recently. It can therefore be a great complement* to other types of evidence that a species is in an area, such as scats (poo), hair, scratches, rub marks, nest, egg shells, bones etc., depending on the species in question and the purpose of the research.

You can also see me doing a habitat assessment to determine how much suitable platypus habitat there is at each site. We also tested water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and other water quality indicators. 🔬 Oh and no, the eski is not for beers (although the location is beautiful), the samples go in an eski to stay cold and help with preservation. 

What we get overall is picture of:

  1. If there are platypus there
  2. What sites are suitable based on habitat and water quality and
  3.  If the habitat was suitable but the water quality wasn’t, we know what might be affecting them and can investigate to improve the water quality and a few other things.

All these things help inform future research, protection of area and our understanding platypi.

Watch this space for results!

 

 

       

Photos: Students from WSU sampling the creek, Habitat Assessment sheets, (far above) eDNA filters from start to finish of the filtering process.

EnviroDNA sampling – where are the platypus in the Cattai Catchment?

EnviroDNA sampling – where are the platypus in the Cattai Catchment?

Referred to as eDNA, Environmental DNA testing is process that detects species in the environment by collecting samples of DNA that animals leave behind. This can be broken down scats, broken up skin or hair cells, bodily liquids, scales etc. and it can be collected in water samples, soil and a few other ways. It is highly accurate, noninvasive & time efficient, the plus being you don’t have to actually see the animal but you can still find out if it’s there and begin protecting its habitat. Not bad at all!

Cattai Hills Environment Network in partnership with WSU students collected samples across sites in the Cattai and Little Cattai Catchment to find the platypus in the region so that we can work towards their protection. We won’t find results for a few weeks so watch this space!

Photos: Collecting water sample(s), a filter now brown full of eDNA that will be sent to the lab for testing.

 

Platypus Story

Platypus Story

Authored by Cross et al, Changeology Workshop, October 2017

Based on a true story

Two of our newly arrived residents from overseas were clearing privet on their property.  This is their story.

One crisp spring morning we finally came to the bank of the creek.  In wonder we gazed at the water running between the rocks and the cool dark pools.  Suddenly we saw a flash of fur and a rounded beak.  We had never encountered such a strange looking animal before and called our neighbour. 

It was a platypus! 


Media Release from the ABC:
We still do have platypus in some of our creeks – what can we do to ensure they survive and thrive?

Scientists have joined forces with tech giant Google to build an app that allows Australians to gather information about one of our most unique and elusive animals, the platypus.

Key points:

  • Scientists say urban sprawl and climate change are big threats to the platypus
  • The app lets people send photos and observations to an online database
  • The data will be used in the first national survey of Australia’s platypus population

It is not clear how many platypuses are living in the wild, but conservationists say the star of the 20-cent coin is facing an uncertain future due to urban sprawl and river pollution.

Read more