You can help our wetlands

Wetlands support 40 per cent of the world’s biodiversity - yet they are declining at an alarming rate. Some wetland species are being pushed to extinction. But you can help to save this essential ecosystem!

Your contribution to our Eavesdropping on wetland birds research project means you’ll play a part in saving our wetlands.

In this project, ecology and computer science collaborate to help to create a world worth living in. A world where we advocate for our natural environment, like the wetlands, and all the creatures who share it with us.

    Where to begin?

    To protect our valuable wetlands, we need to better understand them. Lucky, wetland birds are sensitive indicators of the area’s health, though there’s a small catch – they’re also notoriously secretive in their behaviour!

    Birds like rails, crakes, snipes and bitterns can give us insights to wetland vitality, but we need to learn more about their distribution, population status and ecology.

    That’s where the eavesdropping comes in.

    Ecology, computer science and eavesdropping

    In 2020, a new research project kicked off, led by Charles Sturt University’s Professor David Watson and Dr Elizabeth Znidersic, to identify the distribution of wetland birds using a new and innovative detection method. Cue the technology.

    Technology is increasingly informing conservation management via automated data collection, algorithms to streamline classification and decision-supporting tools. So, to help eavesdrop on wetland birds, specialised computer scientist Dr Michael Towsey has come on board to automate the analysis of acoustic recordings.

    How you can help

    We’re on our way to raising $550,000 to continue this research. By lending your financial support you’ll help our ecologists, computer scientists and software engineers protect our wetlands.

    What we're doing

    This project is a new era in environmental monitoring. It’s non-invasive, efficient and cost-effective, and our communities can be part of the journey. Acoustic monitoring technology is being used to extend time and location data collection in order to detect wetland bird species and monitor their diversity. The timing and frequency of the noises the birds make varies seasonally and can also be used to detect breeding events.

    Monitoring has already begun in a selection of wetlands in south-eastern mainland Australia and Tasmania, including managed and unmanaged wetlands of varying scale

    Sound map of a bird call

    What’s happening out in the field?

    NSW fieldwork was conducted at Sydney Olympic Park, Hunter Estuary Wetland, Macquarie Marshes “Burrima” and Haddon Rigg and The Great Cumbung. Weather conditions for the trip included extreme temperatures (up to 48 degrees Celsius) throughout the majority of NSW.

    Sydney Olympic Park

    Sydney Olympic Park

    Located 13 km west of Sydney, the Sydney Olympic Park has dedicated 304 ha for environmental conservation and management due to the high ecological values. From this area, 140 ha of wetlands provide critical habitat for many migratory and threatened species. A combination of constructed freshwater wetlands and estuarine waterways provide an important refuge for species within a busy city.

    Hunter Estuary Wetland

    Hunter Estuary Wetland

    The Hunter Estuary Wetlands comprise of a group of wetlands situated at and near the mouth of the Hunter River in Newcastle, NSW, about 170 km north of Sydney. These wetlands are recognised by the Ramsar Convention as internationally important. A large area of the wetland has also been identified as an important bird area for marsh birds such as the Australasian Bittern and many shorebird species.

    Macquarie Marshes

    Macquarie Marshes "Burrima"

    Situated approximately 130 km north from Warren, “Burrima” is a privately owned property which spans 257 ha. The Macquarie Marshes (19,850 ha) is one of the largest remaining inland semi-permanent wetlands in south-eastern Australia. The Macquarie Marshes are a Ramsar wetland and include extensive areas of Phragmites reeds, River Red Gum woodlands and mixed marsh floodplains.

    The Great Cumbung

    The Great Cumbung

    Situated about 60 km from Balranald on the banks of the Murrumbidgee Valley, The Great Cumbung lies within two adjoining cattle stations (Juanbung and Boyong). The Great Cumbung spans 16,000 ha of high conservation Phragmites reed and Red River Gum wetlands. This wetland habitat provides critical habitat for many nationally endangered species including the Australasian Bittern.

    Play your part

    Every contribution will help us to do more eavesdropping and ensure our wetlands thrive. Together we can create a world worth living in!

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