Scientific licences

Find out whether you need a scientific licence for research, education or conservation, then choose the right licence class for your project.

Are you aware of changes to wildlife licensing?

The Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 commenced on 25 August 2017.

Existing wildlife licence classes, conditions and fees remain in place.

Proposed changes to wildlife licensing under the new Act will be exhibited for public comment in the second half of 2017. These changes are expected to be taken up during 2018.

Learn more about the wildlife licensing reforms.

A scientist checks specimens at the Australian PlantBank in Mount Annan.We issue several types of scientific licence for activities such as research, surveying, education, collecting seeds, bush regeneration and ecological burns.

Licences help us protect and maintain our protected native plant and animal populations as well as make sure people working with them have the experience and knowledge to work responsibly.

When you need a licence

You may need a scientific licence under Part 2 of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 for a research, education or conservation project that is likely to:

  • harm protected native animals or an animal that is a threatened species or part of an endangered population or an endangered ecological community – this does not include invertebrates (except threatened species), or fish as defined under the Fisheries Management Act 1994
  • harm protected plants or a plant that is a threatened species or part of an endangered population or an endangered ecological community
  • involve the collection of protected plant specimens or seeds, pick cuttings or whole plants
  • damage critical habitat
  • damage a habitat of a threatened species, an endangered population or an endangered ecological community
  • involve research anywhere in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) reserve system.

Types of licences

We issue a number of different scientific licences that have different terms and conditions.

For research and sampling of non-living materials collected anywhere in the NPWS reserve system. 

These materials include rocks, soil, water, fossils and sub-fossils.

Applies to preparing species impact statements, and for general or targeted biodiversity surveys involving protected native animals and plants.

For bird and bat banding on approved sites. You first need a banding authority from the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme.

You can apply for the bird or bat banding licence from OEH once you have received this authority.

Related to bush regeneration for conservation purposes in threatened ecological communities, threatened species habitat or critical habitat.

This licence allows controlled burning in threatened ecological communities or threatened species habitats to supplement approved bush regeneration works.

Proposals must meet the NSW Rural Fire Service Standards for Pile Burning

You should also check with your local council to find out what and when you can burn in your area, and if you need a permit.

For commercial consultants who perform general plant and animal surveys. 

If you do not know where the survey will take place or the target species before applying, you can still apply for a licence to cover many sites.

For schools to keep certain protected animal species for teaching purposes, collect protected plants and demonstrate field-based survey techniques for plants and animals.

Schools can also apply to hold a reference collection of protected animal specimens.

For work in karst environments, including any component species or habitat in the NPWS reserve system.

For academics, students or private researchers to perform scientific research. 

Projects may be specific or more general.

Applies to collecting seed or cutting material from protected plants for regeneration or propagation, but not for commercial purposes.

This licence is generally used along with a bush regeneration licence.

For projects to experimentally introduce or reintroduce a species to the wild, or to supplement a species in the wild.

For projects not covered by any of the above classes. 

Email the Wildlife Team on scientific.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9585 6406 to discuss your proposal.

Animal ethics

If your research involves animals, you may need to meet animal ethics obligations under the Animal Research Act 1985, administered by the Department of Primary Industries.

If this is the case, a scientific licence will be valid only once ethics approval has been granted.

When you apply for a scientific licence, please submit your animal ethics application form at the same time, as well as any approval received. If you do not or cannot submit it at the time of application, we may ask for it later.

When you don’t need a licence

If you work outside the NPWS reserve system, you may not need a scientific licence so long as your work falls into the following categories:

  • working with introduced species
  • working with invertebrates, except those listed either individually or as part of a declared threatened ecological community in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act)
  • working with fish as defined in the Fisheries Management Act 1994
  • working with non-protected plants (all species other than those listed in Schedules 1, 2, 3 or 6 of the BC Act).

You do not need a scientific licence if:

  • activities are approved under development consents and reviews of environmental factors
  • activities are authorised via an existing licence or approval, such as licences issued under Part 2 of the BC Act.

Even if you don't need a scientific licence, you may still need animal ethics approval, fisheries approvals, landowner consent and planning approvals before you start your project.

More details and help

Read our scientific licensing policy for more details.

If you are still unsure of whether you need a scientific licence or the right type to apply for, email the Wildlife Team at scientific.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9585 6406.

Please read details of how to apply before submitting your application.