You may have heard that Western Australia is an international biodiversity hotspot. You might also know that over the last 100 years more mammals have become extinct in Australia than anywhere else on earth. Then you might turn your attention to something else, thinking there isn't much you can do. Well, it turns out there's some citizen science you can do from the comfort of your home, and it's also a lot of fun.
One of the biggest threats to our native wildlife is introduced predators like foxes and cats. The Western Shield program aims to manage these predators and many species have benefited so far, including the woylie, quenda, chuditch, and numbat (WA's animal emblem). However, foxes and cats are still a problem in managed areas which are un-fenced.
Western Shield Camera Watch
Automated cameras are being used in WA's jarrah forests to better understand and improve the program. They record native species and predators in several locations to see how the populations are responding to management (or which species are surviving with no management). The 90 cameras are triggered by movement and take three images in a row. The problem is, there are hundreds of thousands of images to be reviewed. Enter you.
Your task is to review some images. All you need to do is go to the website, register, and read the FAQs
before you get started. You can view each picture individually or play the three flicker-book style. It's a simple case of identifying which animal is in the frame, and how many. It's important to take your time to correctly identify the animal. For the competitive types it also records your contribution.
"The beauty of the Western Shield Camera Watch project is that volunteers don't need scientific knowledge, just a keen eye and a willingness to learn," Parks and Wildlife zoologist, Michelle Drew, said at its launch.
Typical dashboard on the Camera Watch website
Being a Western Shield Camera Watch volunteer is a bit addictive. It's exciting waiting for the next image to load, hoping for the jackpot (like maybe a phascogale). It's also a good way to unwind, and just plain fascinating. At times you might feel like you're prying. It's rare to get so up close and personal with all manner of creatures, whether they're cruising through with a joey on board, having a fight, a back scratch, or just a good sniff of the camera.
There is a lot that we can all do to conserve Western Australia's unique flora and fauna, but this is a good place to start. For more general information on Western Shield visit the website.