Citizen scientists key to understanding platypus distribution

The platypus is one of Australia’s (and the world’s) most unique and intriguing animals.

However, this iconic species is facing an uncertain future due to increasing degradation of its aquatic habitats from agriculture, urbanisation, water extraction, and climate change.

Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence of localised declines and extinctions, leading to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently ‘upgrading’ its conservation status to Near Threatened (previously Least Concern) while recognising the lack of data on overall abundance or population trends.

The platypus is a difficult species to study in the wild and we need more information to fully understand the status of platypus populations throughout its geographical range. 

Recognising the lack of data, cesar partnered with Melbourne Water to develop platypusSPOT, a website where citizen scientists can help researchers by submitting sightings of platypuses in their local area.

Thanks to generous support from Google Australia, platypusSPOT was recently developed into a mobile app and launched at Taronga Zoo.

The app uses your devices’s GPS to automatically record the location so it is even easier for the community to log platypus sightings. With just a few taps, people can take a photo, add some notes about habitat or behaviour and submit their sighting to an online database.

In just the few months since the launch of the app in December 2016, platypusSPOT has received over 150 sightings from all states that platypuses occur.

While sightings have been concentrated in Victoria, we are slowly gaining more information from Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland as awareness of platypusSPOT grows.

In total, citizen scientists have now contributed more than 550 sightings that are helping us to understand the status of platypus populations throughout Australia.

For more information and to download the app visit platypusSPOT

Cover image: Photo by Martin Pelanek, Shutterstock

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