Calling on citizen scientists to assist with platypus and native water rat surveys in Wollombi Brook catchment

Local Land Services is seeking assistance from interested landholders to take environmental DNA samples in their local creek for an aquatic and riparian fauna survey. The target species are platypus and rakali (native water rat).

Project officer Lorna Adlem from Hunter Local Land Services said this exciting new citizen science project is part of a broader iconic species program being undertaken in the Wollombi Brook catchment, funded by the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust and Hunter Catchment Contributions.

“This survey technique simply involves taking water samples with a kit provided. The samples will then be collected and sent to a lab for analyses,” Ms. Adlem said.

“Every living creature leaves traces of its DNA in its environment as skin cells, hair, scales or other tissues – this is called eDNA. Collecting and analysing eDNA is an innovative and reliable technique that provides evidence of species recently present in the environment.”

“Platypus and rakali depend on healthy streams and access to diverse habitats such as deep pools and riffles, gravel beds, riparian vegetation and overhanging trees to survive the extremes of drought and floods that we have experienced in recent years.”

“Due to the cryptic nature of these species, this innovative method using eDNA will further our knowledge of their distribution and how instream wildlife habitat can be improved and better connected. Advice and funding are available to assist property owners with streambank erosion control, weed management, fencing and off-stream watering systems for livestock.”

The project started earlier this year with field work including trapping for turtles by aquatic fauna expert Dr. Bruce Chessman. Wildlife surveillance cameras were also deployed in streams throughout the catchment including Congewai Creek, Watagan Creek, Wollombi Brook and Stockyard Creek.

Dr. Chessman said while turtles were recorded in abundance, there was only one confirmed sighting of a platypus.

“Rakali were captured on cameras near some creeks at night when they are most active. The cameras also captured images of red fox, wombat, swamp wallaby, brush-tail possum, bandicoot, and a lace monitor,” Dr. Chessman said.

Workshops will be held in October to demonstrate how to use the kits and Dr. Chessman will present the results of the Wollombi Valley riparian fauna survey.

If you would like to be involved with this project, please contact Local Land Services by email; or call 0437 967 311.

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