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Within our environment, whether it be at home, at a park, in the forest, at the beach or river we often notice things that have changed. Some changes are expected seasonal occurrences, while others may be a surprise or different from the norm. It could be changes in the water level of a river, first flowering date of a plant species or the behaviour of birds or mammals. It is really useful to record the observation.
This study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate is called Phenology and has increased relevance with the changes occurring due to our changing climate.
These events and observations are really useful to record and can simply be noted in a diary or notebook format. They become historical data and part of the collective ‘community wisdom’ acquired by living locally over many years.
Writing down the plants and animals seen in an area is useful to identify what is there now. The record could be a single chance sighting of a rare species or a more comprehensive list of species found. Compiling a list means there is a baseline of data against which we can compare future changes. To help protect threatened flora and fauna we need to learn about their needs, behaviour, abundance and location where they occur. Do not hesitate to write down what you know and observe, and to share it with people who have been given the task of answering some of these questions.
To report what is seen, we must first record it in some way.
A good record needs a What, Where, When and Who.
Record What was seen to species level if possible or take lots of photos and include descriptions. Photos can be used by an expert to confirm the identification of the plant or animal seen. The Learn about the Environment page has more information on how to identify what you’ve seen.
The Where or location of the sighting can be a GPS location, description or an address. When is the date, which can include the time, and the Who is the person making the observation.
Further information can be recorded on How many were seen, also known as the abundance. If known, then details on the lifestage of the individual sighted can be very useful eg was it an adult or larvae. Abundance can be recorded as the actual number seen or by using a scale, eg frequent or rare.
These essential bits of information make it easier for people to include the observations in a database and provides the information in context (with time and place) for scientists and land managers to better interpret and understand.
Some records will be immediately relevant and useful to a project or database for rare flora and fauna. Places and organisations where you can report your observations are listed below. Where you might report what you see may depend on what it is, how much information you have, time available and which source is easiest for you to use.
– Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), has an easy to use online recording form
– Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), fauna report form can be downloaded and returned to DBCA for inclusion on Naturemap.
– Cape to Cape Bird Group is active in the Capes region with members from Capel to Augusta.
– Birdata is Birdlife Australia’s online portal. Existing data can be explored and new bird data uploaded.
– Nature Conservation citizen science project coordinator.