Wildlife Queensland Scores Citizen Science Grant to Conserve Queensland’s Elusive Platypus

Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Network has been granted $26,930 from the state government to survey and document the population distribution of platypuses within the upper Dawson River and tributaries around the Taroom region.

The ‘PlatypusWatch and eDNA in the Dawson River’ project, proudly supported by the Queensland Government’s Queensland Citizen Science Grants, aims to connect with the local community to educate and harness their knowledge and people power to help implement an ongoing program that will protect platypuses in the region.

The project will combine a series of community-based observation surveys and environmental DNA (eDNA) platypus surveys. Participating citizen scientists will be trained in both observational survey best practice and on the eDNA collection procedure.

Members of the project team will work closely with the Wildlife Queensland Upper Dawson Branch, the Society’s local branch in the Dawson River catchment.

Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Network is thrilled to be partnering with the Upper Dawson branch on this important citizen science project, says Wildlife Queensland projects manager Matt Cecil.

“The Upper Dawson branch is a community-based group who work hard to protect environmental values in their particular region. The branch is long-standing and well known within the community,” says Matt.

On the DNA trail of the elusive platypus

The platypus is classified as ‘Near Threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, due to human encroachment on platypus habitat.

It is a cryptic species which makes population and distribution information difficult to confirm.

“Without baseline data, we don’t know how or if platypuses are surviving. The compounding threat of habitat destruction and pollution, and the recent drought and bushfires may be placing the long-term viability of platypus populations at risk,” says Matt.

“The inclusion of eDNA to detect platypuses within waterways will develop a best practice platypus survey project for the Dawson River to discover baseline population distribution.”

The project builds on an eDNA pilot study completed in 2019 which detected platypuses in two out of four sites along the Dawson River in the Taroom region. The expansion of this project will contribute valuable data on platypus population trends in this region and to the Queensland Government wildlife database.

“The Upper Dawson team is very pleased to have contributed to scientific knowledge about the presence of platypus in the Upper Dawson River. We are looking forward to working with citizen scientists to identify further locations where platypuses are likely to be found, and to utilising the Queensland Citizen Science Grant funding to confirm local knowledge of the extent of platypus habitation throughout the Dawson Catchment for the recording and future preservation of the species,” says Wildlife Queensland Upper Dawson branch secretary Ann Hobson.

Citizen science involves local communities taking part in scientific research projects and learning about the scientific process.

Citizen scientists provide valuable data and skills that might otherwise have not been available to scientists, which increases scientific knowledge and leads to better-informed results all the while empowering the local community.

See the full list of recipients under the 2020 round of Citizen Science Grants here.

Further information about PlatypusWatch Network is available on the Wildlife Queensland website.

Proudly supported by the Queensland Government – Queensland Citizen Science Grants.

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