Wildlife Queensland Launches Fifth year of Platypus eDNA Surveys

Happy platypus. image © Tamielle Brunt

2020 marks Wildlife Queensland’s fifth year of platypus environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys[efn_note]eDNA is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment. As part of their everyday activity, aquatic animals shed DNA from their bodies which is dispersed via water movement. The process of eDNA sampling involves collecting simple water samples and filtering the water. The filtered water is returned to the creek and the filtrate (material that is collected in the filter) is sent to a diagnostic laboratory where the DNA is then extracted if present.[/efn_note] in waterways across the greater Brisbane region, and again we have Logan City Council and Moreton Bay Regional Council on board to further investigate platypus populations in their relevant local government areas.

This year Wildlife Queensland is also partnering with the Oxley Creek Catchment Committee to survey a spread of sites across the southern portion of Oxley Creek Catchment, including Spring Mountain Reserve and Greenwood lakes.

With historic records of platypus occurring across Oxley Creek Catchment in New Beith, Rocky Waterholes and Little Doris Creek, Wildlife Queensland is excited to survey the southern end of Oxley Creek to gather information about platypus abundance and distribution in the area.

Pinpointing platypus populations

Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch team commenced eDNA sampling this week and will survey a total of 46 sites throughout May.

The 2020 platypus eDNA survey program includes both a repeat of some survey sites to continue building baseline data and some new sites, helping to paint a clearer picture of the distribution of this elusive iconic species in the greater Brisbane area.

“May is platypus breeding season in Queensland, so it’s the ideal time to conduct eDNA surveys. Male and female platypuses are likely to be more active, moving along waterways and shedding DNA for us to find,” says Wildlife Queensland Projects Manager Matt Cecil.

The eDNA survey data provides important information about the status and health of the region’s platypus populations and helps identify where conservation actions are needed to protect this very special animal.

Factors impacting platypus populations

In August 2019, Wildlife Queensland reported that repeated eDNA sampling had confirmed that certain waterways within the greater Brisbane region that have historical records, no longer have platypus residing in them.

Like many native Australian species, a combination of factors can negatively impact platypus populations. Prolonged dry periods, landscape alterations leading to decreased water quality, loss of habitat connectivity and predation by introduced species (for example, cats, dogs, foxes) all have a large impact on platypus populations, says Cecil.

“It was fantastic to receive good rainfall in January-February after such a long hot and dry period with very little substantial rainfall. We know how important deep pools are for platypus and are hoping to find great habitat for the species in the upstream areas of Oxley Creek.”

Oxley Creek Catchment Association Partnerships and Education Manager Camilla Duff Burford says the recent rainfall has been good for the catchment.

“Within the southern part of the catchment many of the waterways are ephemeral so it has been great to see them flowing again,” says Burford.

The Oxley Creek Catchment platypus survey is being conducted as part of a larger program sponsored by Logan City Council. Matt Cecil will present survey results later in the year or early 2021 (when, hopefully, COVID-19 restrictions are lifted) at a ‘Platypus in the Pub’ event to be hosted in Logan. Stay tuned for updates!

Get involved

Community members can help local platypus populations by joining catchment groups. They implement workshops that rehabilitate banks and clean up the waterways, all helping the platypus and other species to survive.

You can also help assist the conservation and protection of platypus and their natural habitat by recording your sightings via our form/email at PlatypusWatch.

More information

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