Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Using a unique take on citizen science to conserve a unique species: Thirty years of citizen science and koala conservation in New South Wales (#454)

Dan Lunney 1 , Martin Predavec 1 , Ian Shannon 1 , Indrie Sonawane 1 , Chris Moon 1 , Mathew Crowther 2 3 , Eleanor Stalenberg 4 , Alison Matthews 5
  1. Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia
  2. University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. ANU, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  5. CSU, Albury, New South Wales, Australia

Citizen science is a maturing scientific tool in which members of the community (citizens) are included in the scientific process, often with a focus on data collection. Our take on citizen science provides opportunities to look at longer temporal and broader spatial scales compared to both traditional field studies and traditional citizen science. Citizen science projects work well for studies of koalas because there is wide community interest in the species, it is instantly recognisable, sightings tend to be well remembered, and members of the public will likely have opinions on the species. Over the last 30 years, our data collection on koala populations using citizen science has included citizens directly observing koalas during a survey, recording past observations of koalas on maps, and providing perceptions regarding koala population change which can be evaluated. It is the latter two methods, focusing on the memory of citizens, rather than immediate sightings, that best allow koala citizen science projects to cover broad geographic areas and long time frames. These methods engage a broad cross section of the community, including many who would not consider themselves citizen scientists, and in doing so engender a greater sense of ownership of the results and a willingness to accept management actions to conserve koalas .While these methods rely on the iconic nature of the koala, and their application is limited in less recognizable species, conservation of charismatic species can contribute to social acceptance of biodiversity conservation in general.