Margot Law, NPA Citizen Science Officer
“Who’s living on my land?” is a National Parks Association of NSW citizen science project designed to help regional private landholders discover what species are on their property. NPA was funded by South East Local Land Services (SELLS) to run 20 “Who’s living on my land?” workshops across their region to train 300 private landholders in camera trapping, collaborating with local environmental projects and landcare groups.
Over three years (2015-18) we delivered 21 workshops to 438 people and identified 100 species: including native mammals, birds and reptiles, and introduced species. Four were threatened species: Spotted-tail Quoll, Koala, Long-nosed Potoroo and Speckled Warbler. We analysed more than 300,000 photos and videos and uploaded 1,270 unique records to the NSW BioNET Atlas. Following participation in the project, a number of landholders initiated their own conservation actions – joining Land for Wildlife, Feral Fighters or continuing monitoring by buying their own camera.
Regional “Who’s living on my land?” Surveys
We taught landholders how to set up a camera trap to survey their land for wildlife using motion sensor infrared cameras; then loaned them the camera for a two-week survey on their property. At the end of the survey, landholders posted the camera and we identified all the animals that passed by the camera trap.
We used the results of the citizen science wildlife survey to encourage landholders to participate in conservation initiatives like pest control and habitat restoration to support native wildlife; get them in contact with Local Land Services and other environmental groups; and uploaded valuable species data from private land onto public databases.
Why private landholders?
Australia has the world’s worst mammal extinction rate mainly due to invasive species and habitat destruction. It is crucial for private landholders to participate in efforts to reverse this, as 82% of the Australian landmass is outside the National Reserve System.
The ‘Who’s living on my land?” project tapped into the inherent pride landholders have in their property. Photographs from the survey help landholders discover and connect to native species on their property and in their region. Many native species are often nocturnal, rare and cryptic – so cameras offer a rare opportunity to interact with these animals. With this connection, landholders are more likely to protect the resources that native species depend on and participate in strategic pest management.
Species records on private land
Private land can act as crucial stepping stones between core habitat in the National Reserve System and, in some cases, have high quality examples of remnant or regenerating vegetation. Gaps in species record databases often exist on private land because of lack of access and privacy concerns. ‘Who’s living on my land?’ helped to fill in these gaps. We uploaded 1,270 unique records to the NSW BioNET Atlas, with all but one landholder agreeing to share their records.
We also introduced landholders to the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au) species record database so they could continue to upload their species sightings following the completion of the project.
What we have achieved
The ‘Who’s living on my land?’ project exceeded all its project measures – see table 1.
|Number of people participating in activities to care for their environment||300||438|
|Number of groups participating in activities to care for their environment||10||17|
|Number of training workshops||20||21|
|Properties signing up to land for wildlife||10||48|
|A minimum 3750ha of improved land management practice will be achieved||3,750 ha||11,670 ha|
Table 1. Target and actual project measure for the ‘Who’s living on my land?’ workshops funded by the South East LLS CILF grants.
Over the life of the project, we ran 21 workshops across the South East Local Land Services Region (Figure 1) in collaboration with Great Eastern Ranges facilitators and local conservation projects:
- Adaminaby (2018)
- Alpine (2018)
- Berrima (2017)
- Berry (2016, 2016, 2018)
- Braidwood (2017)
- Bredbo (2016)
- Canyonleigh (2016)
- Cobargo (2017)
- Craigie (2015)
- High Range (2015)
- Kangaroo Valley (2016)
- Pambula (2016)
- Penrose (2016)
- Robertson (2017, 2017, 2018)
- Ulladulla (2016, 2018)
- Yass (2017)
We trained 438 landholders to use infrared cameras to survey their land for wildlife.
Landholders were recruited to the project through a variety of avenues: Facebook ads, posters, local environmental networks, media releases and word of mouth.
Participating landholders owned properties with a variety of primary land uses – chiefly conservation (34%), farming (27%) and recreation (20%) (Figure 2). The high proportion of farming properties demonstrates that this project can be attractive to land managers who typically come from beyond the conservation movement.
The majority of our landholders were not part of any conservation programs prior to participating in the project (Figure 3). Land for Wildlife was the most common conservation program that landholders participated in prior to their workshop.
Following our workshops, we signed up 48 additional properties to the Land for Wildlife network. Land for Wildlife is a voluntary property registration scheme for landholders who wish to manage areas of wildlife habitat on their property. It encourages and assists landholders to include nature conservation along with other land management objectives.
Who IS living on my land?
We analysed over 300,000 images and videos and found exactly 100 species – including 18 native mammals, 63 native birds, 4 reptiles and 14 introduced species (Full species list – Appendix 1).
Of these 100 species, 4 were threatened species: Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus; Figure 4), Spotted-tail Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) and Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata).
Three species were seen in the results for all 21 workshops: Swamp Wallabies (Wallabia bicolor), Wombats (Vombatus ursinus) and European Foxes (Vulpes vulpes).
One of the great strengths of ‘Who’s living on my land?’ are the relationships we have built with local conservation partners. All ‘Who’s living on my land?’ workshops were delivered collaboratively – allowing landholders to develop connections with local environmental projects and organisations. We tweaked the ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey to complement local projects or search for species of interest, like Long-nosed Potoroos and Spotted-tail Quolls.
Project delivery partners included:
- South East Local Land Services
- Landcare groups:
- Upper Shoalhaven
- Milton Ulladulla
- Land for Wildlife (Figure 5)
- Great Eastern Ranges
- Office of Environment and Heritage
- Wingecarribee Shire Council
- Atlas of Life on the Budawang Coast
- Conservation Volunteers Australia
- Panboola Wetlands Heritage Project
What’s next for ‘Who’s living on my land?’
‘Who’s living on my land?’ has been one of our most successful citizen science projects. The National Parks Association of NSW is seeking funding to continue this valuable citizen science project. We are currently working on an ad hoc basis by commission from various community groups and Local Land Services around the state.