Citizen scientists key for platypus – February 2017

PlatypusSPOT empowers citizen scientists as key to understanding platypus population trends

PlatypusSPOT empowers citizen scientists as key to understanding platypus population trends.

As highlighted by last year’s PlatyCount project, the iconic platypus is facing an uncertain future due to growing threats to its aquatic habitats from agriculture, urbanisation, water extraction and climate change.

This most intriguing and unique animal is a difficult species to study in the wild, resulting in a lack of data on overall abundance or population trends. Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence of localised declines and extinctions, leading to the IUCN recently ‘upgrading’ its conservation status to Near Threatened (previously Least Concern).

Recognising the lack of data, environmental research group, cesar, developed platypusSPOT – a website where citizen scientists can help researchers understand more about platypuses by submitting sightings in their local area.

“No-one knows their area like a local, so we’re calling on the community to become citizen scientists and help us find out more about this amazing animal,” said Platypus ecologist Josh Griffiths from cesar.

Thanks to generous support from Google Australia, platypusSPOT was recently developed into a mobile phone app (iOS and Android) and launched at Taronga Zoo.

The app uses your phone’s GPS to automatically record the location, making it even easier for the community to log platypus sightings. With just a few taps, users can take a photo, add some notes about habitat or behaviour, and submit their sighting to an online database.

Griffiths says this information from the community is invaluable and would complement research programs such as the Melbourne Water Urban Platypus Program, Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Network, and UNSW Platypus Conservation Initiative.

Citizen scientists, download platypusSPOT now from your favourite app store and start sending in those sightings!

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