Apply for a scientific licence

Find out how to apply for a scientific licence, details you need to include and how to report and upload data.

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 looking for tadpoles in open country.There are several classes of scientific licences for activities ranging from research, surveying and education to collecting seeds, bush regeneration and ecological burns.

If you are not sure whether you need a licence or are unsure about which class to apply for, see our Scientific licences page for more details.

The following sections outline what you need to know about preparing, submitting and following up your application.

Apply for a licence

The only way to apply for a scientific licence is online. You will need to register for a user account if you do not already have one. You can use this account to manage a range of NSW licences.

It costs $50 to apply for a scientific licence.

Apply online for a Native Flora & Fauna Research Licence

If you have any questions, email the Wildlife Team at scientific.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9585 6406.

Information to include in your application

Once you begin your online application you will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, contact details, qualifications and organisation details.

If you have collaborators or staff who will work independently under the licence, you should list them by name as associates.

People who will not be working independently under the licence do not need to be listed as associates. These include students or volunteers working under the supervision of the licensee, or third parties engaged under contract. However, you should list their involvement in the methods section of the online application.

You can list up to 5 associates in the online application. If there are more than 5 associates, you can attach a list of their names, dates of birth and contact information in the attachments section of the online application.

Dates of birth are used to match records in the government licensing database but do not appear on the licence. Individuals’ details are then available for future applications, making it a faster process. Supplying accurate details for everyone also helps us to maintain an accurate database.

We don’t always contact your referees, but we may do so to check details in the application. Please note that we may provide any information you’ve included in the application to your referees.

You should supply details of your organisation when you are carrying out a project on its behalf or under its management. This includes projects by academic staff and students at universities, or by employees of consulting companies and so on.

Use the ABN/ACN matching tool in the online application to make sure you enter the details correctly.

You may list an alternative contact address, but you should still provide the organisation’s address and details.

Species and locations

In the online application you can choose up to 50 species or items of study, such as endangered ecological communities, soil samples and so on. You can list more in an attachment if needed.

If your project involves flora or fauna surveys, choose ‘ALL FLORA’, ‘ALL FAUNA’ or other ‘ALL’ options. To find these, select the ‘species type’ then enter ‘ALL’ in the look-up box.

You can also choose an entire family or genus.

Most terrestrial plants and most vertebrates are listed in the online application. However, there are some omissions, including fish, fungi and most invertebrates.

If the species you want to work on isn’t listed, choose the most relevant generic option, such as ‘ALL INSECTS’, and list the exact target species in the methods.

If you are working on abiotic (non-living) sample types or your focus of work is not available in the online flora or fauna list, then enter the species type ‘OTHER’. A drop-down list will appear. Select one or more items from the list to best match your activity.

For example:

  • air-quality sampling
  • aquatic macro-invertebrates
  • fossil material
  • leaf-litter sampling
  • rock/geological sampling
  • speleothems
  • soil samples (aquatic)
  • soil samples (terrestrial)
  • sub-fossil material
  • visitor surveys
  • water samples.

You only need a licence for these categories if the study locations are in a national park, reserve or protected area, a threatened ecological community or the habitat of a threatened species.

You can apply to work anywhere in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) reserve system by nominating the parks, reserves or other areas in the ‘location data’ page. 

You can nominate up to 50 locations online, and more in an attachment. You can also choose locations at an NPWS area, region or branch level.

Please be specific about which locations you want to conduct your research in. NPWS staff will discuss your application with the relevant area managers.

Extra information

If you are applying for a bird/bat banding licence or an education licence to house animals at a school, you do not need to supply extra information.

Additional questions (XLS 558KB) must be completed for all other licence types.

Applicants for bush regeneration projects will need to supply additional information not captured in the online application. These include a:

To research in karst environments you need to submit a completed list of Karst questions (XLS 565KB).

Please limit methods and objectives to 2000 to 3000 characters each, which is the maximum length in the online application.

If you need more room, attach the extra information in a suitable format on the ‘attachments’ page.

You can supply up to 5 relevant attachments to support your online application. These include maps and diagrams. Each attachment needs to be no larger than 4MB.

You can email supporting information to scientific.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au. Please include your name and licence application number in the subject heading. Make sure attachments are no larger than 7MB.

If you cannot email extra information you can post it to us. Make sure you include your name and licence application number.

Our postal address is: Wildlife Team – Scientific Licensing, NPWS, Office of Environment & Heritage, PO Box 1967, Hurstville BC, NSW 1481.

After you submit your application

The process for assessing and granting licences usually takes 4–6 weeks. It may take longer if extensive consultation is required, such as for research in karst areas or translocations of plants or animals.

The length of licences varies, depending on the type of project and licence class.

Licence amendments are possible, but please review your initial application carefully before submitting it to ensure it includes all the species, sites and associates you are likely to need for the project.

You can request minor amendments to a licence while it is current, such as adding new locations, species or methods. Keep in mind that even minor amendments involving work on animals will require an additional animal ethics approval.

You may need to submit a new application if you wish to substantially modify the activities covered under the licence.

Changes to associates may be managed directly by the licensee. If you want to change the principal licensee, the existing licensee must submit a written request by email, because an amended licence will need to be granted.

You can request minor amendments by email to scientific.licensing@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Reporting obligations

If you plan to carry out surveys, research or other biodiversity assessments you need to provide a full report of plant and animal observations and data collection. You’ll need to include the following details:

  • species name
  • observation date
  • observer name
  • location description
  • coordinates
  • accuracy.

If you are licensed to conduct presence/absence (ecological) surveys, you will need to enter data about any threatened and protected plants and animals you encounter.

Other licensees need to report only plants and animals that are the target of their licensed activity, but incidental observations are highly valuable and you are encouraged to enter these.

Upload data to BioNet Atlas (previously Atlas of NSW Wildlife) using the most recent version of the BioNet Atlas spreadsheet (XLS 2.7MB).

To upload your spreadsheet, you need to register for login access to BioNet. Scientific licence holders are expected to register so that they can upload information and fulfil their licence requirements.

If you have difficulty uploading your data, please email the BioNet Team at bionet@environment.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9585 6684.