Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Habitat Health Check – our new project!

Posted on 7 August, 2018 by Tanya Loos

In 2009, Connecting Country created a Biodiversity Blueprint with the help of the community and our partners. From the outset, scientific monitoring has been a high priority at Connecting Country. Without monitoring, we don’t know if we’re achieving our goal to restore habitat for native species.

Monitoring achievements

We’ve been fortunate to have a world-class landscape ecologist, Professor Andrew Bennett, assist in creating our monitoring programs for woodland birds and Brush-tailed phascogales. As of 2018 we’ve collected 23,996 individual bird records, and 1,424 records for our phascogale monitoring.

Our wonderful ‘Connecting Landscapes’ project (2013- 2017) worked with local landholders to help restore over 1,600 hectares of land. It also funded staff to establish and run our bird and nest box monitoring programs. These days, funding is more likely to be smaller amounts of money over shorter time scales. In-house monitoring by staff has become a luxury!

In the meantime, we’ve developed a team of highly-skilled and enthusiastic volunteers ready to take a more active role as ‘citizen scientists’. We’re poised to update to a new model that is more community-driven – drawing upon the power of YOU, the community, to contribute data as volunteer citizen scientists.

This change has been in the air for a while. After the success of our ‘Stewards for Woodland Birds’ project, we’re delighted to announce we have funding from the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to support this important transition.

The new project is  ‘Habitat Health Check: empowering citizen scientists to monitor habitat health in Central Victoria.’

Male Hooded Robin. Analysis of our results shows a welcome increase of this species in the Mount Alexander region. Photo by Geoff Park.

Habitat Health Check – analysing and acting on our scientific monitoring

Habitat Health Check is a collaborative, robust, citizen science project that monitors native animals and plants in the Mount Alexander region. We will review our existing, long-term monitoring programs, and move to a new collaborative, targeted model that empowers our enthusiastic and skilled volunteers, improves scientific rigour, and promotes data sharing via the Visualising Victoria’s Biodiversity online portal.

Tanya Loos, Connecting Country’s monitoring and engagement coordinator, will deliver the project between now and 2020. Habitat Health Check will encompass BirdWatch, NestboxWatch, FrogandReptileWatch and PlantWatch.

Some expected highlights

Our scientific data will be analysed by experts from BirdLife Australia and Latrobe University, and the results shared in an exciting evening forum.

Four workshops will review our data and results, and invite the community to explore new scientific questions and methods. How can we best work with the new BirdLife Castlemaine District group? What have we learned in the past eight years? And where to from here?

We’ll collaborate closely with SWIFFT – the State-wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams, to share our findings and use this great online resource.

In 2019,  we’ll run a competition for the best local photographs of our favourite flora and fauna, for Connecting Country’s very first calendar!

Get ready to get involved

We will be recruiting team leaders to inform and guide our various citizen science programs – so birders, nestbox enthusiasts, plant nuts,  reptile watchers and froggers: watch this space!


10 responses to “Habitat Health Check – our new project!”

  1. Liz Butler says:

    fantastic. How can I get involved? I have so many tiny marsupials on my block (central VIC) I would love to be able to identify and record them – and would love further information on how I can contribute.

    • Asha says:

      Hi Liz, sorry for the delayed response! Thanks for your interest in this project. In terms of getting involved, you’re already in the right place – we’ll post on our blog whenever we have an event or other way to be involved in Habitat Health Check. If you’re interested particularly in small mammals, we’ll be having an event later this year for our “NestBox Watch” part of the project – stay tuned! Also, if you’d ever like to borrow one of our camera traps feel free to drop in to the office for a chat. Thanks, Asha

  2. Eliza Tree says:

    Wow. How Totally Exciting.
    Connecting Country – you are amazing!
    Connecting and inter-connecting our amazing ecologies, communities & Country.
    Keen to involve.
    Thank You All,

  3. alex don says:

    sounds great. hope i can contribute in some way.

    • Tanya Loos says:

      Well stay tuned Alex! I am sure there will be a part for you to play – depending upon your interests :), Tanya

  4. John Carruthers says:

    That’s quite a step forward. Very exciting.

  5. Tim Read says:

    Wow this is exciting.

    You are amazing CC.

    Looking forward to being involved.

  6. Joy Clusker says:

    What about fungi?

    • Tanya Loos says:

      Hi Joy!
      Yes fungi certainly are the bedrock of so much biodiversity. We could also monitor insects, bats, and freshwater fish! But in terms of being a landscape restoration organisation, woodland birds, phascogales, and frogs and reptiles give us a good indication of whether the revegetation and habitat enhancement by Landcare and private landholders are creating habitat.

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