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Simple Solutions and Citizen Science – An innovative nest-box design and monitoring system for threatened arboreal species 

16-08-2022 15:37

Jack Spittle has developed a simple no-nail flat-pack nest-box design for a range of threatened arboreal species, and is now piloting his wireless in-box monitoring system which connects to the internet - easy safe systems which enables data collection and citizen science, at scale.

The 2019-20 bushfires in New South Wales were unprecedented in their extent and intensity. As of 28 January 2020, the fires in NSW had burnt 5.3 million hectares (6.7% of the State), including 2.7 million hectares in national parks (37% of the State's national park estate). For Jack Spittle of the Wonyip Landcare Group, this was a turning point. Jack had already witnessed the loss of habitat in his own district in the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria’s southern Gippsland region. Ongoing farming and logging activities had impacted the local arboreal animals which relied on hollows in old growth forest for their survival.

It wasn’t just that the Strzelecki Koala numbers were down, but other species were in decline - the Eastern Pygmy Possum (near threatened*), the Red-Tailed Phascogale (endangered*), the Greater Glider (vulnerable*), the Powerful Owl (threatened*), the Barking Owl (endangered*), the Masked Owl (endangered*), and the Azure Kingfisher (endangered*). Gang Gangs and Black Cockatoos also pass through his part of the Strzelecki’s – these too have been listed. But old growth forests, whether they be in the burnt-out forests of NSW, the logged Strzelecki Ranges or any other location across the world, cannot be replaced quickly.

So, Jack looked for another way to support these declining populations. He designed a no-nails flat-pack nest-box which can be carried into the field, and constructed and installed by novices, on the spot. It is a game changer. Jack’s nest-box designs use a simple notch assembly which can be adapted for a range of arboreal species. Marine-ply provides a strong and weatherproof housing, which he coats in wax and peppermint (to deter swarms of bees moving in!). With no nails or screws or plastics in the assembly, the nest-boxes are environmentally friendly and do not need to be collected at end-of-life.

The Wonyip Landcare Group has now been awarded a Victorian Landcare Grant to install over 90 nest-boxes across the district, some of which have been installed and occupied already!! Jack is continuing to develop new designs for more arboreal species. And what next for Jack?

He’s now working on an in-box monitoring device which detects movement in his nest boxes. This wireless device is connected to the internet and so climbing a tree to check the box becomes a thing of the past. Occupancy is recorded in real time and can be viewed anywhere in the world, by anyone connected to the network. Real data in real time, anywhere. This innovation is about to be piloted in the field in Queensland and has the potential to bring rich data to anyone from the casual citizen scientist to governments facing the challenges of climate change. The sky’s the limit!

A poster for the 2022 National Landcare Conference by the Wonyip Landcare Group Yarram Yarram Landcare Network.


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