Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Expedition: The Highlights

It’s been nine months since CVA launched the Eastern Barred Bandicoot recovery expedition on the DigiVol Wildlife Spotter platform, so we’re talking to our Project Manager, Louise Morris, about the highlights so far. 

Can you tell us a bit about the overall Eastern Barred Bandicoot project? 

CVA have been working in collaboration with Zoos Victoria, Melbourne University, and the Victorian Government Eastern Barred Bandicoot (EBB) recovery tasks force for many years to manage the Western Woodlands Historic Park EBB Sanctuary, with support from our partner, Melbourne Airport. We have a dedicated Reserve Manager, Travis Scicchitano, who is on site every day and leads our work with volunteers and project partners. 

The work we do to look after both the sanctuary, and the EBB as a reintroduced threatened species, ranges from revegetating the area with native grasslands that EBB use for food and habitat, leading community volunteers in citizen science monitoring of digging and foraging activity (known as nose pokes), to being part of the annual mark and release monitoring of the EBB population – led by Zoos Victoria.  

The annual mark and release monitoring tells us how the population is faring at a specific time, by recording if females are with pouch young, the weight and health of individuals captured and micro chipping bandicoots to understand their longevity. What we needed to complete this scientific survey work was ongoing real time monitoring of all the fauna active in the area, including our bandicoots, to give us a better understanding of what animals were in the area to inform our management plans.  

We set up a fleet of Wi-Fi enabled fauna cameras throughout the sanctuary, thanks to the generous donations of AON Insurance who sponsored the cameras. These cameras are operating 24/7 with solar panels and Wi-Fi connection that sends us images from the field any time an animal steps in front of the camera.  

It is this raw information that we are constantly uploading to the Conservation Volunteer Australia Institution page on DigiVol Wildlife Spotter that the 10,000 plus online citizen science volunteers can then help us identify what we captured. This information once verified by experts at the Australia Museum is then added to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) national biodiversity database, that information is available to government bodies, research institutions and our project partners.  

Can you give us some quick stats? How many people have been involved?  

Over ten thousand people volunteer their time on the DigiVol platform and we’re lucky to have 190 core volunteers who are dedicated to helping with our EBB specific expeditions – often completing over 200 individual identification tasks within an hour of beings posted! This has allowed us to work through the important task of assessing what animals are active in the area, including the EBB, and most importantly get feedback from our online citizen science volunteers on what they are noticing in the images – especially if it may pose threat to our bandicoots.  

What animals have been spotted in those locations?  

We have specifically designed the setup and position of these cameras to monitor for animals at ground level where our bandicoots are. This means we are selecting a specific view and habitat type that shapes the other animals we will see. This ground level view of the native grasslands has shown us an Eastern Barred Bandicoot population that is healthy and most active around rain events – which is when the fungi is growing, and the insects get active (which are some of the bandicoots’ favourite foods). 

We are also seeing a good population of wallaby and some very cheeky brushtail possums who’ve taken a liking to attempting to dismantling our cameras, to the point of pulling apart wiring and trying to pick apart the housing of one of our camera traps. We have had to go back to the drawing board on protective housing for cameras a few times. 

Anyone signing up to volunteer on one of the CVA DigiVol Wildlife Spotter expeditions is likely to get a few very close up face shots of possums staring back at them. It’s these snap shots of the intelligence and inquisitiveness of our native animals that really show the personality you don’t get to observe when doing more traditional tracks and traces style surveys. 

Releasing Bandicoots in Victoria with Aon Corporate Social Responsibility

Releasing Bandicoots in Victoria with Aon and Melbourne Airport


What are the plans for the future of the Citizen Science program at CVA? 

Citizen Science is a central part of all the work we do at CVA. Working with project partners and volunteers across all our campaigns from the threatened grasslands that the EBB inhabits, the koala corridors of NSW, caring for our waterways and coastlines, to restoring habitat in fire affected areas of Australia, we are committed to building a clearer understanding of our biodiversity and what we need to do to look after it.  

By volunteering with CVA on ground or through online Citizen Science events, people from all walks of life build their eco-literacy skills, connect to nature, and become active stewards for nature. People can find out what events are taking place near them, and how to get involved here. 

CVA will be taking part in the Great Southern BioBlitz from October 22-25 this year with on ground events where Covid permits, as well as creating citizen science opportunities for people to be part of monitoring the biodiversity in their back yards, local parks and of course our DigiVol Wildlife Spotter expeditions.  

In the coming months CVA will be launching a new citizen science monitoring project, in collaboration with the City of Hobart, focused on two species of bandicoot the Tasmanian Eastern Barred Bandicoot and Southern Brown Bandicoot (SBB) located at the old Beaumaris Zoo Site in Hobart. This is the location where the last known Thylacine died in captivity, and where there is still a wild population the EBB. Citizen scientists from across Australia will be able to help with monitoring the success of these two ecosystem engineers at this historic site through a new DigiVol Wildlife Spotter expedition coming soon. The information from this work will help inform land management practices on this reserve to enhance bandicoot habitat and ensure their continued survival in the wild.  

CVA have partnerships with leading research institutions such as the CSIRO, Australia Museum, Melbourne University, government, and private landholders to delivery our campaigns that restore native species and their habitat. This work with leading organisations gives our volunteers the trust that what they are doing, whether it’s weeding and restoring native vegetation, managing reserves, or removing plastic pollution from waterways, is having a local impact and contributing to significant national approaches to help our natural world and communities. 

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