One of the overwhelming messages from this federal election is that Australians care deeply about protecting our environment. We see this not only in our polling booths, but increasingly, also in the way communities partner with us on science that protects our planet.
Environment Institute researchers are leading the way with ‘community science’, an innovative approach to discover how to empower communites caring for their local wildlife. The Bolstering Bandicoots project, led by Environment Institute’s Dr Jasmin Packer, is a pilot project that aims to mobilise a budding community of citizen scientists to discover where endangered bandicoots live in Adelaide’s foothills – and why.
Thanks to a large Green Adelaide grant (2021–2023), Dr Packer and her ‘Bandi Bunch’ team (including Hayley Jose and University volunteers), have started training local landholders as citizen scientists to conduct their own wildlife camera surveys and record data with the Australian Museum’s Digivol.
Using remote-sensor camera traps, the landholders are collecting baseline data on where bandicoots and other wildlife live along Brownhill Creek and First Creek. They are also helping the researchers delineate ‘habitat hubs’ where abundant wildlife is supported by favourable soil and vegetation conditions, indicating best-practice management that could assist with future translocation efforts.
In addition to investigating how privately-owned bandicoot habitats are managed and who’s leading with best practice, the Environment Institute’s team includes Professor Anna Chur-Hansen and Dr Mark Kohler to understand what motivates landholder’s management choices. These insights will guide future research with communities to test behaviours – and enablers – that could help landholders better protect bandicoots on their property.
The project has already proved to increase the confidence of local environment groups and landholders to care for local wildlife. Case in point: this young echidna was recently discovered dispersing downhill and dangerously close to Waterfull Gully Road, cornered by a concrete driveway and a fence – with nowhere to go!
Luckily, Friends of Cleland Conservation Park were working nearby. They put down their tools and came to the rescue. Gray Rowe and Rob May were able to gently move the juvenile echidna to the nearest suitable habitat in the direction he was heading – namely Winters Creek. “He dug into the soft soil and made himself at home straight away!” reported Gray Rowe, President of Friends of Cleland Conservation Park.
Kudos to Jasmin and her team, and to all the members of the ‘Bandi Bunch’, for helping to bolster the bandicoots of the Adelaide foothills.