The National Koala Count is an innovative, large-scale citizen science initiative developed by the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), which runs every year from November 7-17. The aim of the count is to create a comprehensive picture of koala numbers and locations across the landscape by engaging communities directly in this once-a-year survey.
A unique GPS-enabled smartphone app, BioTag, allows for quick and easy recording of sightings. Any data that is collected is then fed into the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), where it complements existing records and is available for any organisation or researcher who needs it.
A web portal, www.koalacount.org.au, functions as a central repository for data and enables participants to view all of the records they have collected, as well as those gathered by other participants. ALA, a strong supporter of the count, provided all of the mobile apps and infrastructure for the website.
The annual count is proving a great success, with 308 people taking part in the 2014 survey and recording 1,161 koala sightings, a 54% increase in the number of records compared to the 2013 count. This increase is assumed to be due to the higher number of people who participated.
A comprehensive report of the results has been released and distributed to koala researchers and land managers across Australia to help inform decisions about future conservation efforts. A copy of the report can be downloaded from www.koalacount.org.au.
The long-term aim is to repeat the survey annually so that changes in populations and the effectiveness of conservation efforts, along with the impact of events such as drought and fire, can be monitored over time.
If you would like to learn more about this exciting survey, visit www.npansw.org.au/koalacount. Or if you’d like to be kept informed about NPA’s upcoming citizen science projects register for NPA’s monthly enewsletter.