Short Virtual Presentation & Digital Poster 10th Australian Stream Management Conference 2021

Innovative eDNA citizen science for biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes (#21)

Helen Barclay 1 , Josh Griffiths 1 , Sue vern Song 1 , Peter Ronalds 2 , Philip Darton 3 , Terry McPhee 4
  1. EnviroDNA, Parkville, VIC, Australia
  2. Western Port Catchment Landcare Network, Koo Wee Rup, VIC, Australia
  3. Neerim District Landcare Network, Neerim, VIC
  4. Melbourne Water, Tarago Catchment Healthy Farms Project, Neerim, VIC, Australia

Agricultural operations can have a significant impact on waterway health in Australia, and thus landholder engagement and cooperation in conservation is critical. Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling provides an exciting collaborative opportunity to engage landholders as citizen scientists generating unprecedented amounts of biodiversity data. Citizen science provides a generational opportunity to inspire broader engagement and deeper connection to nature in waterways, thus encouraging better management.

This paper explores the results of two eDNA citizen science projects run with Landcare groups in West Gippsland, Victoria, that have successfully engaged private landholders in this innovative way. For a National Landcare Funded project, efforts resulted in over 60 wildlife species detected from taxonomic groups like fish, frogs, birds, turtles, and crustaceans, including some threatened or cryptic species that were unknown to participating citizen scientists.

The innovative projects attracted high levels of community involvement, including many new Landcare participants. Participant feedback highlighted that new wildlife and biodiversity knowledge was acquired by all respondents with many showing intentions for further biodiversity conservation actions. With engagement being the first step to behaviour change, it’s hoped these example projects inspire further innovative citizen science approaches for biodiversity conservation with landholders in agricultural landscapes.

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