Local volunteers help monitor platypus numbers

Corangamite Catchment Management Authority has partnered with the Australian Platypus Conservancy to launch an innovative new program for citizen scientists to keep track of platypus numbers.

Director of the Australian Platypus Conservancy, Dr Geoff Williams presented two free platypus information sessions for potential participants in Birregurra and Geelong last month. Both sessions on the banks of the Barwon River were fully booked, with over 70 people attending.

Corangamite CMA’s Deirdre Murphy said the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network is a great way for locals to be involved in platypus conservation.

“A dedicated website (www.platypusnetwork.org.au) and app allows volunteers to immediately upload sightings records in the field,” said Ms Murphy.

“A standard monitoring session requires just 5-10 minutes of observation time at each site. Many volunteers fit their platypus scanning sessions into other day-to-day activities. For those who cannot monitor on a regular basis, a report of a ‘one-off’ sighting is still of great value.”

“Crucially, the volunteers keep track of both when animals are seen and when they are not. This allows the frequency of sightings – the average number of animals seen per site-visit – to be calculated as an index of platypus activity which can be used to plot population trends. Participants can also obtain personalised feedback about their own monitoring results.”

Over the past decade the Australian Platypus Conservancy has demonstrated that standardised visual monitoring can track how platypus populations vary through time. The method encourages trained volunteers to visit fixed monitoring sites at frequent intervals to record the number of platypus observed.

To learn more about this and other citizen science opportunities in the region, contact the Corangamite CMA on 1800 002 262.