Category: Collaboration & partnerships

Citizen science and COVID-19

Just as ACSA responded to the bushfire crisis earlier in the year, we would also like to contribute to how the Australian community can stay positive, share experiences and contribute to science and learning in the context of COVID-19 social distancing, flattening the curve and mitigation.

Doing more together

While physical isolation guidelines are being implemented globally, this doesn’t mean we need to feel isolated and powerless during this challenging time. Indeed citizen science is all about the power and potential of ‘scale’ and that by working together we can do more. 

Many in our community are finding comfort in continuing with their daily citizen science activities and the sense of connection and purpose it provides. Whether that is recording species in our backyards, monitoring our rain gauges or helping to digitise records and images. We also want to share that sense of purpose with others in the broader community – especially those whose normal avenues of connecting are being restricted such as our senior citizens. 

Get involved with purpose 

We provide here is a list of some citizen science activities that anyone with a mobile phone or internet connection can actively participate in. Websites such as ACSA’s Project Finder, SciStarter and Zooniverse also provide an fantastic array of citizen science projects to explore. We will gradually add to this list and would welcome your suggestions: send us an email coordinator@citizenscience.org.au with your favourites.

Online citizen science projects:

  • Foldit – an online game in which citizens help design and identify proteins to help researchers create an antiviral therapy for COVID-19.
  • Flutracking – online health surveillance program to track influenza across Australia and New Zealand, and help researchers understand disease spread and target intervention. 
  • DigiVol – from the Australian Museum, a crowdsourcing platform to transcribe and digitise images and information from natural history collections in Australia and across the world, including camera traps and field journals.
  • Western Shield Camera Watch – analysing camera trap images to manage introduced predators, primarily foxes and cats, that threaten native wildlife in Western Australia.
  • Eyewire – a citizen science human-based computation game that challenges players to map retinal neurons.
  • SouthernWeatherDiscovery.org – digitising old Southern Ocean and Antarctic weather data from the log books of sailors and explorers from the 19th and 20th centuries to feed into a supercomputer to create daily weather animation for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
  • Bash the Bug – help understand which antibiotics are effective against Tuberculosis.
  • Stallcatchers – identifying blood vessels for blockages (stalls) that may contribute to Alzheimers and speed up research for a treatment.
  • Citizen Science Games – this website provides a great list of online citizen science games including various articles and publications
  • Astroquest– complete quests to help Australian scientists understand how galaxies grow and evolve
You can get involved in citizen science from your home with online projects such as Digivol

Backyard citizen science projects:

Even from your backyard, home, local park or nature reserve you can participate in collecting citizen science information – download some of the apps or participate in some upcoming “blitzes”. Here are just a few to start you on your journey:

  • iNaturalist’s City Nature Challenge – April 24-27 2020 – be part of the global City Nature Challenge
  • Wild Pollinator Count  – April 12-19th 2020 – count wild pollinators in your local environment and help build a database on wild pollinator activity
  • Citizen Science Month – April 2020 – check out on social media #CitSciMonth for things happening to celebrate citizen science internationally and ways to participate virtually.
  • iNaturalist – record your observations of species, and share with the iNaturalist community   
  • FrogID – a national citizen science project that is helping us learn more about what is happening to Australia’s frogs by recording frog calls.
  • NatureMapr – community based citizen science platform to collect, manage and share species data.
  • QuestaGame – a game to make the adventure of going outdoors real and contribute to research.
  • Brush turkeys – collecting information about the Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami) in suburbia, including observing their behaviours
  • Birdata – BirdLife Australia’s platform for those interested in the amazing array of birds in Australia.
  • ClimateWatch – understand how changes in temperature and rainfall are affecting the seasonal behaviour of Australia’s plants and animals.
  • Urban Wildlife App – an app with research from the environmental science program the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub looking at bell frogs, flying foxes and beneficial insects.
  • Hush City – a science mobile app, which empowers people to identify and assess quiet areas in cities to create an open access, web-based map of quiet areas, with the potential of orientating plans and policies for healthier living

Opportunity to learn and reflect

With the COVID-19 outbreak we have been inundated with a deluge of information and advice, highlighting the importance of science and an evidence-base to tackle challenges and make decisions (e.g. public health, epidemiology, modelling, vaccine production, genome sequencing etc). The global citizen science community also wants to make sure that we extend and improve our knowledge and theory around the practice of citizen science and reflect upon the relationship between science and society. ACSA’s 10 Principles of Citizen Science is one way we drive good practice in citizen science.

Many people ask “what is citizen science?” and if you would like to know more there is a growing resource base to explore that question and reflect on how it might apply to your work and community aspirations: 

Reach out and share

The fast emerging impact of COVID-19 provides us as a society and its various actors (individual, community or organisational) the opportunity to reflect upon what small acts of reaching out and sharing we can do for those where the retreat to social isolation is confronting or another barrier to empowerment. For ACSA’s Vice Chair this was highlighted in a personal way:

“When my 80 year mother came to dinner last weekend she was very upset. All the things that kept her busy, provided structure to the day, meant she could meet up with friends and learn more about the world were cancelled – no University of the Third Age, no bridge, no Probus, no exercise class, no music concerts! While we as a family are connecting with her as much as possible, I wanted to see if she would be interested in citizen science as a way to bring some purpose and “something to do” back to her daily-life. “But I didn’t do science at school” she insisted. Not deterred, we have started on #NanDoesCitSci with the Digivol platform – the echidnas attacking a mallee fowl nest our first task together. We are hoping to earn the “Scientist” badge.”  

What can you do to reach out with citizen science?  Tell us your stories here – and as we opened with, let’s be “doing more together”.

Update – 30 March 2020

ACSA members have also recently contributed to a number of recent articles around citizen science and COVID-19:

ACSA Bushfire Response projects audit and promotion

Early in the new year we were waking up to the realisation of how awful and extensive all the bushfires across Australia were. We were also seeing a huge response from the public who wanted to contribute, to do something to help affected wildlife which we were seeing perhaps surviving the bushfires but subsequently in real problems because of a lack of water, food and shelter/cover.

We also realised that none of us knew what citizen science we could usefully do that would help scientists and natural resource managers with information about what was happening. We also needed to be guided as to what to look for so as to begin to understand the destructive and regenerative processes we were observing around us.

ACSA established an informal working group to undertake an audit of post bushfire/wildfire projects which involve an element of citizen science in their data gathering. Our task was to collate what we could find and make it accessible to the whole citizen science community.

We now have both an Atlas of Living Australia Biocollect Bushfire Projects page and a Sci Starter microsite to which we can continue to add suitable projects and where you can find relevant platforms and methodologies to work with.

Our “global audit” resulted in only 10 projects that responding to the survey. Not a great number, but there are really valuable projects within the responses Here are a few examples:

  • The WaterbugBlitz project which can be used to track the presence/absence of waterbugs to compare them with those present before the fires and monitor how they are affected by ash and erosion runoff and the subsequent changes in water quality after the fires
  • Eye on Water which looks at the colour of water and maps it against satellite images – this will be interesting because of all the extra material now present in any water bodies affected by fire, flood ash and erosion.
  • The Environment Recovery Project based on iNaturalist asking for observations from recently burned areas
  • Two Globe Observer projects, one on Land Cover recording and one on Clouds for recording post bushfire changes in vegetation/erosion and smoke intrusions
  • Questagame Bushfire which is a competition to record unusual species in refuge unburned areas and later when it is safe, to record what comes back into burned ecosystems
  • Naturemapr Water and Feed station monitoring asking people to record where water stations are and what comes to visit and behaviours such as aggression, including feral animals and unusual species and insects.
  • NatureMapr Post Bushfire regeneration and repopulation For recording post-fire regeneration and repopulation: The post fire appearance of any fungi, insect, plant and any other wildlife group can be recorded at locations specified by fire intensity, original habitat type or other environmental variable of interest, or as sites for which there is pre-fire data. Recording unusual or greater numbers of wildlife in refuge areas and how long they stay.
  • Airater a project to support people with asthma and allergies to better manage their health. The app provides users with up to date, local information on environmental conditions, including air pollution, pollen and temperature. Users can also log their asthma/allergy or other health symptoms and develop a personal profile of what their environmental triggers are.
  • Citisens, an app developed in Greece which allows citizens to easily georeference a fire-line in real-time and report its coordinates as they are photographing a wildfire. It offers real-time prediction and dynamic assimilation of citizen-reported hotspots into ongoing simulations for improved predictive accuracy, and decision support to issue citizen alarms based on the estimated time-dependent risk at their location due to an approaching wildfire.

The activity around putting out water and food stations and general post bushfire monitoring in many places, by natural resource management agencies and also many individual and community groups, will undoubtedly produce many images via camera trapping and we are pleased to learn that the Australian Museum is establishing  a Bushfire specific page for its great “Wildlifespotter” platform, so everyone with multiple camera trap images will be able to invite the global community to help identify “camera captured” wildlife.

We have also identified a number of other existing and tested projects which could easily be modified for post-bushfire research and are currently approaching universities and agencies to seek information about what scientists are seeking to work on and how our communities of citizen scientists could work with them. Some of these are focused on specific animals like Platypus, Frogs, Glossy Black cockatoos and Echidna. The Echidna project is particularly interesting as it seeks Echidna scat(poo) which can be analysed for stress, so post bushfire evidence will give fascinating new understanding of what levels of stress these animals are suffering around bushfires.

Although we hope that this season’s bushfires are over, there is much work to be done to understand better the effects of what has happened this season, in the short-term and long term. We also want to be better prepared both to help and to learn more,  more quickly when next bushfires happen in Australia, so we are gathering information about research which has been completed and which is just beginning and we hope to create a resource hub for a range of information and tools which everyone will be able to access.

Libby Hepburn

libby@atlasoflife.org.au

Citizen Science Bushfire Response Project Audit

The unprecedented continental scale of the current Australian bushfires is devastating. They have led to the loss of lives, homes, habitats and biodiversity on a huge scale.

In this time of extreme loss, we are buoyed by the amazing response of individuals and communities in this time of crisis.  We believe there is a role for citizen science to assist across multiple disciplines, at scale, in many research and monitoring capacities to contribute to important and valuable science that is needed now and into the future.

ACSA is seeking to support conversations and plans – both short and long term – that help further connect the citizen science community to contribute to the complex efforts required to learn from and understand the impact of the bushfires (see ACSA bushfire response).

The first step we are taking is an audit to gather as many research projects as we can that include fire – bushfire/forest/wildfire as their focus and citizen science as part of their methodologies. We have developed the ACSA Citizen Science Bushfire Response Project survey and we would be very grateful if you could circulate this widely through your networks to all those who might already be working in this area. We are seeking projects across a broad spectrum of subjects, from biodiversity to human health that use a wide range of methodologies, from projects which require on the ground work, to purely online projects where everyone can contribute.

This information will be used to create a publicly available list of active projects and ACSA will work with partners to identify a number of projects that have the potential to contribute on a national scale.

Contact:  Libby Hepburn

libby@atlasoflife.org.au   +61 458 798 990  Merimbula,

New South Wales, Australia

Australian Citizen Science Association statement on 2019/20 bushfires

The unprecedented Australian fires are devastating. They have led to the loss of lives, homes, habitats and livelihoods. Members of the Australian Citizen Science Association extend our deepest sympathies to those affected personally and also recognise the ecological grief that may be prompted by the scale of this crisis. 

In this time of extreme loss, we are also buoyed by the extraordinary response of individuals and communities in a time of crisis.  We believe there is a role for citizen science to assist across multiple disciplines, in many research and monitoring capacities. 

ACSA is a member-based community that supports, informs and develops citizen science. With this in mind, we are seeking to support conversations and plans that help further connect the citizen science community to contribute to the extraordinary and complex efforts required to organise a safe, strategic and coordinated response – both short and long-term.

We understand that there are many people who want to help with response. We do too. Please appreciate that the safety of you and others is paramount.  If considering citizen science activities, always ensure that the area you visit is cleared for entry, you are safe and that your activities do not interfere with the critical frontline work of emergency first responders. We are not currently promoting field based data collection. Emergency responses need to come first. Many volunteers are actively contributing to response efforts as firefighters, relief centre workers, and wildlife carers, while other people returning to their homes are putting out water or vegetables for wildlife remaining. Our thanks goes out to those contributing to these efforts.

The first four steps of ACSA’s approach is outlined below:

STEP 1 – Rapid community feedback

ACSA has commenced multiple processes for crowdsourcing information about what and how citizen science projects might contribute to the recovery of forests and ecosystems, monitor the effects of climate change, and empower citizens to create datasets that may positively influence climate policy.  

A quick call for ideas is open for feedback. No idea is too big or too small. You can share information about  existing projects and new concepts that could address a critical gap. As a community, we can work together to create and support imaginative, robust and impactful projects that will contribute to positive outcomes for science and society. We’ll share the ideas generated with you and use them as part of our citizen science advocacy in consultations with government and industry. 

STEP 2 – Community of practice discussion

We encourage our members to join the WILDLABS Bushfires Slack channels, in which several of our committee members, and representatives from response organizations such as Conservation Volunteers Australia, are already active. Please get involved in these conversations to share your insights and details of any active groups or discussions around citizen science bushfire responses so that we can link to these initiatives. There are several citizen science threads. The WILDLABS Slack link is <https://www.wildlabs.net/community/thread/825>. 

STEP 3 – Project audit & key needs

We are partnering with SciStarter and Atlas of Living Australia on a survey to compile a list of projects where citizen science data and data processing could be useful in helping to monitor the impacts and recovery from the bushfires and of a changing climate more broadly. We will be posting this survey soon – please stay tuned. 

This survey will be a first step in helping to support the broader conversations around how to maximise the positive contributions from citizen science for response and recovery efforts. If you manage or know about good projects, we very much value your feedback.  There are a huge range of existing citizen science projects that are already collecting data around relevant topics. 

Potential categories of needs and goals identified so far include:

    • post fire assessment and recovery (ecology and or biodiversity monitoring, documenting regrowth, identifying remaining patches of habitat, soil condition)
    • Wildlife and endangered species support (presence/absence, abundance, distribution, predator control)
    • Air quality, cloud, smoke monitoring etc. (empowering citizens to self-monitor or access nearby monitoring, coordinating citizen data)
    • Water quality, including runoff/ash issues (projects exist, coordinating/sharing role)
    • Health and well-being (respiratory issues, mental health, community sustainability)
    • Climate change observations, local weather conditions
    • Research (Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
    • Shared global goals (Earth Challenge 2020, SDGs). 

We have also had a number of science, research and conservation organisations reach out. This conversation linking key needs from science, management and policy organisations and the Australian and global citizen science community is where ACSA seeks to focus our efforts. To help us consider ways to best connect the citizen science community with key needs, we welcome feedback on critical information gaps and key research needs where citizen science can help. 

STEP 4 – Long-term strategy

An effective response to coordinate citizen science contributions at this scale will require extensive strategy, consideration and collaboration. ACSA will work to develop a more long-term response together with you, our community. This will include approaches to best align the key data needs identified by science, management and communities with citizen science data collection, processing, analysis and sharing activities. 

We’re exploring ideas around how we can support constructive sessions at the upcoming ACSA National Citizen Science Conference (Oct 2020) and through other key advocacy and collaborative activities. We welcome your feedback to shape next steps. If you are interested in being part of a working group for a disaster recovery research stream of the conference, please contact cobi.calyx@unsw.edu.au.

ACSA stands with you and your communities, and we will support Australia’s response to the bushfire and climate crisis as best we can. As climate change continues to influence more aspects of our lives through both extreme events and other environmental, social, cultural and economic changes, we want to continue strengthening ACSA as a platform that can advocate for your priorities.

ACSA Seed Grant Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of ACSA’s Seed Grants for 2019! The Seed Grants were designed as a way of giving back and investing in our members, with two $1,000 grants available to ACSA members to seed their professional or project’s growth in line with ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice.

And the winners are:

  • Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries – Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps: The ‘Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps’ project involves school children running insect traps to collect parasitic wasps in their local environment, and being involved in naming and describing newly discovered species.

  • Jodie Valpied – Bachhus Marsh Platypus Alliance: The Seed Grant will help provide the necessary resources to the new Bacchus Marsh Platypus Alliance community group to begin a citizen science project on platypus habitat health, and to facilitate community engagement in this project.

Congratulations to Erinn, Jodie and your teams on winning this Grant, and we look forward to hearing how your projects progress.

Meet ACSA’s new host

We are thrilled to formally announce that ACSA’s new host institution for the next three years is The University of Sydney. 

The University of Sydney was founded in 1850 and is Australia’s first University. Citizen Science is a burgeoning area of growth in both research and practice at the University of Sydney, and one that is set to expand over the next decade.

ACSA will be housed with the Faculty of Science, which is also home to Inspiring Australia NSW. This will be fantastic for strengthening our ties with Inspiring Australia going forward. ACSA will also work closely with the newly formed Citizen Science Node at the University, which oversees all the projects across the university that fall under the citizen science banner.

The node’s co-director, Dr. Alice Motion, was featured recently in this article about the official recognition and support of citizen science within academic institutions. With the vision to “become a world-leading hub for the advancement of citizen science that is ethically and methodologically rigorous.” ACSA is very excited about its new home!

ACSA Chair Erin Roger signing the Affiliation Agreement with our new Host Representative Dr Alice Motion

Q&A with ACSA’s Patron…Dr Geoff Garrett AO

One of our Member’s recently mentioned that they’d like to know a little bit more about ACSA’s Patron Dr Geoff Garrett AO, and the work he is doing behind the scenes for ACSA. What follows here is an amusing, honest and engaging account of the years since citizen science first crossed Geoff’s radar (which was not as early as you might have expected for a Chief Scientist!) But perhaps that is just testament to the times that were. Not anymore! Read on to find out a little more about our Patron.

Geoff and his avid birdwatcher wife, Janet

ACSA: How did you get interested in Citizen Science? And why?

Geoff Garrett: To my considerable embarrassment, during my time as CSIRO’s Chief Executive and, thereafter, as Queensland’s Chief Scientist, citizen science hadn’t really crossed my radar.

I was probably not alone in this as, for example, up to that point I can’t recall any discussion on the topic with the other States’ Chief Scientists, who regularly got together under the leadership of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

But then, late in 2016, towards the end of our time in Queensland, I got an interesting (and some might say pushy!) letter from a devoted citizen science evangelist, Libby Hepburn.

She wanted to meet. I didn’t at that stage know her from the proverbial bar of soap so (as one does, or did) I politely ducked her kind invitation saying I was finishing off, then going to be overseas for the first half of 2017 but “please feel free to contact me again when I’m back in Canberra”…. thinking (of course) that it would go away. It didn’t.

Early in July 2017 Libby got in touch again, too passionate on the topic for me to put off meeting with her. And at our first meeting the scales started falling from my eyes, around the scope, potential and importance of better involving – meaningfully – the broader community, young and old, in science, and scientific research.

My emerging enthusiasm was further ignited a couple of weeks later when Libby suggested I get in touch with Canberra-based Andrew Robinson of Questagame.

I had mentioned to Andrew our visiting UK brother-in-law, Ron Johns (for a decade Britain’s top ‘twitcher’), so birding was a prime topic. We had an awesome meeting and compelling roadshow through Questagame‘s objectives and activities.

Also around that time I had just joined the Board of the brilliant National Youth Science Forum, so enthusing young kids around science was also pretty much top of mind.

I was hooked.

And the rest just unfolded. ACSA was emerging as the organising vehicle here in Australia and I had some intriguing conversations with Erin Roger as Chairperson, especially around science leadership, politics, engaging key decision-makers and funding – stuff I’ve spent, happily(?), quite a lot of my career getting to grips with. I offered to help.

ACSA: So how, as Patron, have you been involved?

GG: First off, I was – and am – honoured, and indeed flattered, to have been invited by Erin and the Committee to take up this role.

Now – relationships are key…..

I still had some useful connections into, for example, the Office of the Commonwealth Chief Scientist, and we persuaded Alan to do a keynote address – which was great! – at ACSA’s February 2018 conference; into Department decision-makers around extending core funding; to my ‘old’ colleagues back in Queensland and the then Acting Chief Scientist, Dr Christine Williams and my former boss, the excellent Minister Leeanne Enoch. These ladies both got as excited as I was and devoted time and resources to getting Citizen Science well and truly launched in Queensland through a formal Strategy piece and $500+k initial grant funding for Citizen Science projects. And so on.

And all a great pleasure to be able to assist.

ACSA: So why do you think Citizen Science is important?

Geoff sharing a science story with one of his granddaughters, Evie

GG: For any ACSA Newsletter reader looking for a motivational briefing on this question – for pals, colleagues, family or bosses – if you haven’t yet come across it, this link might be helpful…

https://govoluntouring.com/what-is-citizen-science-why-is-it-important/

From my side, in particular, there are a couple of key drivers here…

Firstly, on capacity…. involving enthusiastic lay people in research studies can drastically expand for researchers the volume and spread of valuable data collection. My previously-noted brother-in-law and engaging the birdwatching community at large is a great example.

Secondly, debunking elitism and mystique…. which sometimes, unfortunately, scientists like to hide behind: “this is all very hard, and complicated, and you need to be very clever (like me) with decades of training behind you (also like me), to be able to contribute.”

Citizen science projects open up how science actually works, and exposing scientists to the broader community as real people, nice people, helpful people doing important work for the benefit of all of us, is very beneficial.

Thirdly, promoting collaboration… which we are still struggling with here in Australia, sadly.

I’m fond of quoting that “all business is people business” and that “communication excellence is the baton of leadership” (and that’s maybe twice as much listening as talking – the two ears/one mouth story!) Key skills essential for the broader ‘professional’ scientific corps, to hone and improve. Learning through doing.

ACSA: And finally, what would be your vision for citizen science in Australia in say 3 to 5 years time?

GG:

  1.  Track record. A burgeoning engagement of citizens in science projects – and results – of importance to communities, meaningfully influencing policy at local, State and Federal level.
  2. No Heads of Science Agencies or Chief Scientists (mea culpa again!) – nor indeed any Ministers of Science – that don’t have citizen science on their priority action list. With funding.
  3. The secret of success. Word-of-mouth spreading like wildfire with both professional scientists and community groups.

 

Thank you Geoff!

How Cooloola Coastcare hatched Cooloola TurtleCare with a seed grant from the Australian Citizen Science Association

By Lindy Orwin, Cooloola Coastcare

Worldwide, marine turtles are at risk. But on the Cooloola Coast in the Gympie region of Queensland, where several endangered, vulnerable and threatened species (including the green, loggerhead, hawksbill and flatback turtles) live, there are some extra challenges. This is an area of dynamic sand movement and many 4WD tourist vehicles use the beach daily, especially during school holidays, because the beach is a gazetted ‘road’. Young hatchlings whose nests survive the king tides and storm surge of the crazy Queensland storms, have to run the gauntlet to survive.

The Cooloola Coast turtle breeding beaches urgently need monitoring and the community needs education about marine turtle behaviour if the turtles trying to nest in this area are to be successful. These beaches and those to the south are vitally important because sand temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings. Only beaches south of Bundeberg are cool enough to result in male turtles, to balance the feminisation of turtles north of this location.

In 2017, one nest was laid right next to the Lifesaver’s Tower on the main swimming beach. It was sadly lost during the first night to the ravages of a large high tide. Luckily for Cooloola turtles, a very experienced turtle carer with extensive experience around the world in turtle rescues, relocating turtle nests and tagging turtles, Joan Burnett, moved into our area. Now her work has been fast tracked thanks to an ACSA Seed Grant!

(Left) Joan Burnett, Turtle Citizen Scientist and (Right) Treasurer and Turtle Volunteer, Nancy Haire, prepare materials for turtle education events.

Cooloola Coastcare has been able to rally a merry band of volunteers together and start an education program for the community. In the last few weeks, members of the public have reported stranded and sick turtles and our team has been able to help out in the rescues and collect data about several turtles. With the help of the ACSA Seed Grant, the TurtleCare Program is well underway and plans are being ‘hatched’ for more Cooloola volunteers to be trained at the Mon Repos Turtle Research Centre in the 2019-20 turtle season. We’re changing the survival rate of marine turtles one turtle at a time. In July and August, we’ve been involved in rescuing a turtle from a crab pot, assisting a turtle found floating on the surface and collecting data about deceased turtles.

Turtle education will also be a feature of the upcoming National Science Week STEAMzone Festival in Gympie with Joan’s newest educational resource…a realistic model of a hatching turtle nest complete with the moonrise over the sea.

Our newest educational resource…a realistic model of a hatching turtle nest complete with the moonrise over the sea

While there are many tourist photos of marine turtles in the Cooloola Coast area taken by campers, kayakers, fishermen and divers, there is little scientific data about the numbers of marine turtles trying to lay their eggs on Rainbow Beach.  Data collected about turtles stranded and rescued by the Citizen Scientists is adding to the knowledge base.

A partnership has been established with the Sunshine Coast TurtleCarers for shared training and collaboration. Cooloola TurtleCare will promote broad and meaningful participation in citizen science by our TurtleCare volunteers, local residents and tourist visitors.

Dr Lindy Orwin, Coordinator, Cooloola Coastcare and turtle volunteer, Murray, look for any remaining eggs in a nest site exposed during Cyclone Oma

Seed Grants 2019 – Call for applications!

What’s in it for you?

  • $1000 to seed your professional development or your project’s growth.
  • Exposure for your project and/or organisation.
  • Motivation to initiate something you have always wanted to do.
  • Quick and easy application process (online application form).

ACSA is excited to announce our second round of Seed Grants.  As a way of giving back and investing in our members we are offering grants of $1000 each to two ACSA members to seed their professional growth or their project’s growth.

Last year, three ACSA members won ACSA Seed Grants:

  1. Jodi Salmond of Reef Check Australia – Life coaching to work more effectively with volunteers
  2. Geetha Ortac of Bellingen Riverwatch – Printing of training manuals
  3. Dr Lindy Orwin of Cooloola Turtlecare – Training of a certified carer

Could you be next?

To be eligible for Seed Grant funding, proposed activities must be in line with ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice. These goals are:

Participation – Encourage & promote broad and meaningful participation of society in citizen science so people become partners in creating science & increasing science literacy.

For example (but not limited to):

  • Activities that encourages participation in a citizen science project, could be a workshop, an event or a school outreach program or an app.
  • Development of a citizen science project that aims to meet these goals
  • Resources or training for citizen scientists participating in a project you run

Practice – Support the development of tools, methods, infrastructure, and resources to strengthen the practice, use and study of citizen science.

For example (but not limited to):

  • Attendance at a relevant course or event, such as a conference.  Can include registration, accommodation, flights etc.
  • Development of tools or infrastructure that aims to meet this goal.

Who can enter?

This grant is open to all current ACSA members. Not a member? Join us!

How to apply

Complete the Seed Grants Application Form before Friday 13 September, 2019 5pm AEDT.

Please note, applications should be kept short to reflect the value of the grants. A maximum character limit applies to each judging criteria.

Seed Grant Application Form

Judging criteria

Applications will be judged on the applicant’s response to the following:

  1. Short description of proposed activity (maximum 200 characters).
  2. Context or background to your proposed activity (maximum 1500 characters).
  3. Detailed description of how the Seed Grant will be spent (maximum 1000 characters).
  4. In what way does your proposal address ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice (maximum 1000 characters)?
  5. Describe the expected outcomes and benefits of your proposed activity (maximum 500 characters).
  6. Brief timeline for the delivery of your proposed activity (maximum 500 characters).

Key dates

Entries must be received by Friday 13 September, 2019 5pm AEDT.

The recipients of the Seed Grants will be announced at the ACSA Annual General meeting in [insert month], and on the ACSA website by [insert date], 2019.  Recipients will also be contacted by email or phone.

Terms and conditions

  • The grant is open to current ACSA members only.
  • The activity outlined application must be able to be completed within the year following the awarding of the Seed Grant.
  • The Seed Grants are two (2) grants of $1000 each.
  • Recipients will be asked to provide photos and a blog outlining how they intend to use the Seed Grants, for publication on the ACSA website. Additional information may be required for a year following the awarding of the Seed Grant.
  • Information provided by the recipients may be used by ACSA for promotional/publicity purposes. This may include, and is not restricted to, the information being used on websites, social media, printed material, press releases etc.
  • Personal information provided to ACSA can be used by ACSA, however such use will only be in connection with the Seed Grants.
  • The deliberations of the judging panel remain confidential. All recommendations and decisions taken are binding and final and no correspondence will be entered into on such matters.
  • The judges reserve the right not to award the grants if, in their view, the quality of entries is insufficiently meritorious.
  • No entries will be received or considered after the close of entries.
  • Failure to meet all conditions of entry will automatically disqualify an entry.

Apply now!

Engaging and Retaining those elusive volunteers…

By Jodi Salmond, Reef Check Australia

Volunteer engagement and retention have long been an issue for the not for profit sector.  Organisations reliant on unpaid workers have substantial investments in time, training, and financial input, as well as an ongoing mentoring/upskilling programs to ensure volunteers feel both valued and supported, in addition to having the right skills to conduct the tasks required of them.  Despite this, some volunteers still cancel last minute, or cease to show up at all- leaving organisers stretched, frustrated, and unable to meet funding milestones.

We all invest a lot in all our volunteers.  I believe that overall, we are great at supporting them; we train them, we guide them, we answer their questions, we thank them for, validate their efforts and make sure everyone feels comfortable in their sparkly new roles.  And yet the turnover rate is still high.  Personally (and professionally) I continue to be interested in how we can all find and recruit dedicated, accountable, reliable volunteers for the long game.

Following my successful application for an ACSA Seed Grant, I chose to look at several different life coaching programs and books to help me gain a better understanding as to how I might better manage my own thoughts, feelings and expectations around volunteerism, how to create accountability to ourselves and each other, how to ensure less burnout in an industry that is known for it, and how to create engaged, energised long term volunteers.

I signed up for several different courses, and admittedly, I didn’t complete them all.  Some required too much time, some just didn’t suit my learning style, and for some, the expectation of what needed to be achieved daily was not realistic for someone working (almost) full time.  I did however find a few programs that really stood out for me, giving me small pieces of gold that I have taken on board not only for myself, but that I have since passed along to my volunteers through different training programs over the past 9 months.  I have found these to be truly helpful for both myself and my volunteer engagement, and would recommend everyone give them a go! The biggest nuggets of gold I have learnt and want to share include:

  • According to recent research, a habit takes 66 days (not 21 as many people believe) to create.  This really pushes people to genuinely create habits.  The first 50 days were hard.  I personally found that I really enjoy the routine I have created for myself in getting ready for the day.
  • When required to do something that is not for yourself, it is easy to push it aside.  Volunteers have to feel ownership over a task to see it through.  Ensure this ownership is facilitated!
  • Do a personality profile on yourself, and learn to recognise the characteristics of your volunteers.  Understanding each other’s needs, learning, and communication styles etc INSTANTLY increases understanding for both parties, and creates an open space of compassion and empathy.
  • When the number of tasks is too high, or the size (perceived or real) of the task is too large, many peoples default is to feel overwhelmed and thus retreat.  It is vitally important to remember this one thing: ‘How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time’.  We need to change our default state to one of encompassing challenges rather than hiding from them.
  • The greatest thing we can do as leaders is to create more leaders; then let them fail forward.  Failure is key to success, so celebrate them!  Only through failing can you identify what doesn’t work.  If you are successful at everything you ever do, you are not pushing hard enough.
  • Self Care in paramount.  We all know this, yet it’s the first thing that disappears when time is at a premium.  Start your day focussed on YOU.  Take time to plan your day, meditate, journal and exercise.  THEN you can start the day feeling your absolute best because you spent time on you, your mindset and yourself.

I learnt a lot about myself during my search.  This has guided me on a path of continual self-development that I thoroughly believe has made me a better trainer, better leader and better overall human.  My volunteers seem active, engaged and eager to join in the wide array of activities we are a part of.  They understand there are boundaries to our relationship, and I no longer work all hours of every day, but purposely take time out to practice gratitude, to reset and re-energise.  I believe learning is the key to growth, and if we can all learn and grow together as an organisation, a team, a company, that we will all benefit and our volunteers will be around for a lot longer.