Southern Right Whale  -  B.McPherson Bridgewater

Photo credit - B.McPherson Bridgewater

You don’t need to be a professional researcher to experience the wonder and excitement of scientific discovery. A growing number of Victorians from all walks of life are spending time in nature and making valuable contributions to scientific research. 

The participation of volunteer community members in citizen science significantly increases the amount of scientific data collected, entered and analysed. It democratises science while building community members’ scientific knowledge and understanding. 

Andy Geschke, Communications Officer at DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute, became a citizen scientist in 2015 while studying Environment and Commerce at Monash University. He’s recorded frog calls near his home in inner Melbourne, counted bats at Yarra bend Park (one of the world’s longest running mammal surveys), and shared his bird watching data with Birdlife Australia.   

He’s found it very rewarding. ‘I’ve loved learning about amazing animals around us and citizen science has made it easy to recognise different species while also collecting useful data for researchers. It’s really comforting to walk around where I live and know a little bit more about what surrounds me’ 

‘It was great to join others who are passionate about the environment and want to contribute. It’s also pleasing that citizen science apps are sharing their data with the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas which makes it accessible for everyone.’ 

The Arthur Rylah Institute, our environmental research group, has been involved in citizen science projects for many years. Here are three citizen science projects that we’re currently running: 

Recording frog calls in northern Victoria

From September, we will be working with citizen scientists to better understand how environmental watering is improving wetland biodiversity. 

The Wetland Monitoring Assessment Program (WetMAP) is looking for volunteers to observe frogs in northern Victoria’s wetlands. We’re collaborating with Frogs Victoria, the University of Melbourne, the Australian Museum, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and North Central CMA on this exciting project. 

You can get involved by downloading Australia Museum’s FrogID app and then visiting northern Victoria’s wetlands to record and share frog calls. Your data will help us understand where frog species occur, their numbers and the impact of environmental watering.   

We will run training for citizen scientists in September, but you can start recording whenever you like! Find out more by visiting ARI or contact  Pam Clunie.



Fish ears tell tales

Did you know the ear bones of fish – or otoliths – can reveal details of their life’s journey? Like tree trunks, these bones form rings with every year of a fish’s growth. They tell us how old the fish is, which river it was born in, those it has visited, and even if it’s a stocked or wild fish.

Anglers have become citizen scientists, by sending us the ear bones of Golden Perch and Murray Cod they have caught to eat. Information we get from these bones helps us better understand how water for the environment supports our native fish.

We have finished collecting the bones and are currently analysing the otoliths. We will soon share the findings with the anglers. You can follow the updates on the ARI website.

Watch Whales. Make a difference.

We’ve just launched a new way for citizen scientists to help us research the critically endangered Southern Right Whale. Community members can help us understand the whales’ migratory habits and populations by watching the whales and sharing their observations and photographs with researchers.

Every Southern Right Whale has a unique pattern on its head – called a callosity - helping whale experts identify individuals and track their migration. ARI and our Barwon South West team are working with Zoos Victoria and Federation University on the project. While citizen scientists have been contributing to this project for many years, since launching a new website we have received more than 100 sightings and 134 photos from community members.

If you want to know more, you can register for the SWIFFT whale newsletter.

Southern Right Whale - credit Coralee Thorsen

Photo credit - Coralee Thorsen

Related links

Student Marine Water Monitoring - Port Phillip Bay (EPA)

Philip Island Nature Park

Victorian Biodiversity Atlas

State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT)



Citizen Science Central Atlas of Living Australia

Friends of Plenty Gorge bird survey

Science in the Park event, 11 August

Page last updated: 09/08/19