Volunteers can solve conservation crime scenes, from the luxury of their living rooms

For the sake of an endangered outback species this Science Week, it’s hoped that many hands really do make light work, with citizen scientists urged to lend a hand from the luxury of their living rooms.

Two malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) at a nest site

The NSW Government’s Saving our Species Program has tens of thousands of images from six remote cameras in outback NSW focused on mounds made by malleefowl, an endangered native bird.

DPIE Community Engagement Team Leader Chris Dawe says the public has a vital role to play in sorting through the first 10,000 images.

“We need help examining thousands of images to paint a picture of malleefowl behaviour in NSW and tell us what animals and disturbances are impacting this bird’s survival.

“It is like a conservation crime-scene, putting together important information about the threats that live in areas where the malleefowl is found.

"This is an important conservation project because the malleefowl is under threat on a number of fronts.

The malleefowl is about the size of a chicken and builds enormous egg-incubating mounds with its large and powerful feet. Although they were originally found more widely throughout Australia, malleefowl are now mostly limited to areas of inland semi-arid scrub.

"All of the information gained through the image analysis will improve the monitoring of malleefowl across a remote and vast NSW landscape.

“The cameras collect thousands of images every few weeks so the success of this project really relies on the enthusiasm and time of keen citizen scientists.

“Between desktop computers, smartphones and tablets, we now have access to tools that allow members of the public to make a real contribution to the conservation of NSW unique and rare animals,” Mr Dawe said.

The images are analysed by citizen scientists on DigiVol, a crowdsourcing website developed by the Australian Museum in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia. A recent upgrade of the DigiVol website has enhanced the real impact that citizen scientists can have on the conservation of the malleefowl, by improving the speed, the storage of the images and the accuracy of information that can be downloaded once the images are transcribed.

Volunteer Lucy Ascanio Hernandez has been testing the newly upgraded DigiVol and says it’s really rewarding work.

“I have always been interested in the environment and animals and am currently studying a Bachelor of Environmental Biology so saw this as a great opportunity to be part of a real-world conservation project that combines my studies and also passion.

“As DigiVol is online, it makes volunteering a lot easier as I can fit it around my busy schedule, and still know I am taking part in something that is making a difference,” she said.

Once the images are transcribed this information can be accessed directly by threatened species officers involved in the on-ground management of the malleefowl, so there really isn’t a better way to contribute to conservation of this fantastic species from the comfort of your own home!

To get involved in the project visit: DigiVol: Saving our Species - Malleefowl or search Saving our Species – malleefowl on DigiVol.

To find out more about the Saving our Species program visit: Saving our Species.

Photos for media: Flickr: DigiVol malleefowl