Citizen scientists track platypuses in Queensland’s Upper Dawson region

25 July 2021


Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Network and Upper Dawson Branch ran two June workshops in the Banana Shire to teach locals about the iconic platypus and how to monitor its numbers using eDNA technology.

The Maudsley family, from Mitchell, learned eDNA sampling techniques and were lucky enough to spot platypuses in Castle Creek, Theodore.  Image: Wildlife Queensland.

On Saturday 26 June, Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Project Officer, Tamielle Brunt, taught 31 people in Taroom and Theodore how to collect water samples to test for platypus DNA. This exciting new citizen science project to determine platypus distribution in the Upper Dawson River and tributaries around the Banana Shire is proudly supported by the Queensland Government’s Queensland Citizen Science Grants.

eDNA sampling technique

eDNA is a non-intrusive water sampling technique that uses filters to trap residual platypus DNA.

“As platypuses swim in the water, they poo, they scratch, and their hair and skin cells shed off into the water. We can pick that up in the water passing through those filters,” explains Brunt.

The samples are then sent for testing in Melbourne, where lab researchers can detect platypus DNA in the water and better understand the monotreme’s Queensland distribution.

“They run a segment of platypus DNA, and if there is DNA in the sample, hopefully they will match and we can determine whether platypuses are present.

“This method has revolutionised how we monitor this elusive species. We no longer have to see and identify the animal to be confident they live within a particular waterway.”


Clockwise from top left: Platypus in Castle Creek; volunteer Charlotte takes a water sample; the Brunton family sampled Gyranda Weir. Images: Tamielle Brunt

Spotting the secretive platypus

Over the weekend, Brunt and the citizen science project volunteers were thrilled to sight platypuses in Castle Creek at Theodore.

‘Fifteen minutes before dawn, volunteer Charlotte Langhorne spotted a platypus, and we watched it for a further 20 minutes,” Brunt said. “Our citizen scientist family from Mitchell also spotted one. Seeing two in the same morning was fantastic!”

After the workshop, several volunteers took their newly acquired skills and eDNA sampling packs to test water from the river or its tributaries, either on their properties or at allocated sites. Overall, 19 sites were sampled along the Dawson River, from Moura to west of Taroom.

The project will be repeated next year to develop an ongoing monitoring program in the region.

Thanks to all of the keen citizen science volunteers who participated in this fantastic weekend.

Get involved!

The more people who get involved in our project and report platypus sightings, the more we can track, protect and conserve our platypuses.

PlatypusWatch is urging community members to get involved in this important citizen science project and to come forward with any sightings of platypuses.

Each sighting is important to help us gauge the distribution and health of this unique species. The more detail, the better!

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