Echidna CSI: a citizen science platform for outreach, engagement, communication and education
Join the Echidna Conservation Science Initiative (EchidnaCSI) and complete an honours project in science communication or education.
The EchidnaCSI combines research and public engagement to address three separate aims:
- Establish the first Australia wide detailed echidna distribution map.
- Utilise the collection and molecular analysis of echidna scat samples from captive and wild populations to provide novel insight into fundamental aspects of echidna biology (e.g. diet, stress, breeding).
- Undertake outreach, education and engagement via traditional methods and social media.
In Australia we are privileged to be home to the extraordinary egg-laying mammals, the platypus and echidna. Both monotremes are vulnerable to threats through habitat destruction/fragmentation as well as from invasive pests. EchidnaCSI was launched in September 2017. A dedicated phone app allows the public to record observations of echidnas whenever they see them out in the wild. The project also encourages the identification and submission of echidna scats for molecular analysis.
Since the launch, over 7,000 users have downloaded the app and over 6,000 sightings have been recorded, which is an astounding number since echidnas are not usually easy to spot. Our innovative approach to use community engagement to obtain echidna scat samples has been very successful, with approximately 350 samples received.
Echidna CSI on Totally Wild
EchidnaCSI offers opportunities for students to work in research or outreach, engagement, communication and education. For students interested in the professional skills honours program we offer the following projects:
Project 1 (science communication)
- Develop, implement and evaluate public engagement activities to increase uptake of the project and gain insights into the motivation and educational outcomes of EchidnaCSI in the community.
Project 2 (science communication)
- Develop, implement and evaluate educational material, including short videos.
Project 3 (science education)
- Development of experimental approaches on the scat material collected that can be implemented in schools and undergraduate teaching.
Different projects can be discussed with the supervisors Prof Frank Grutzner and Dr Michelle Coulson.
Honours student Imma Perfetto completed a project in 2019 which involved designing and implementing a 28-day social media campaign across the EchidnaCSI social media platforms. Content posted during this campaign was designed to address key motivations of citizen science volunteers.
The effect of the campaign on recruitment to and participation with the project was measured through: downloads of the official EchidnaCSI app; submissions to the project; and changes in followers of the different accounts.
Interactions with posts addressing different motivations were also measured to determine which types of content were most popular with EchidnaCSI followers.
This research will help establish whether a social media campaign addressing participants’ motivations should be invested in on a long-term basis, and for which social media platforms and content that resources should be dedicated towards in the future.