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Citizen Scientists to help in important national research projects

3 June 2021

Documenting the diversity of Australian insects and protecting turtle populations are just two of the important research projects that members of the public are invited to take part in under the Morrison Government’s Citizen Science grant program.

Almost $4 million has been allocated in this funding round to nine projects that offer opportunities for the public to make a significant contribution to scientific discovery. 

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said the grants help to raise community awareness and interest in science, while also providing opportunities for social connection and the development of new skills.

“These grants continue the government’s commitment to making science relevant and accessible to people of all ages across the nation and complements our support for events like National Science Week and institutions like Questacon,” Minister Porter said.

“The citizen scientists will learn new skills, form new networks, receive acknowledgement for their efforts, and receive updates on their participation in specific research projects. 

“The work involves the collection or transformation of data in four priority areas: disaster resilience and preparedness; environmental change; cyber security and artificial intelligence; and food and agribusiness. These all have practical applications of benefit to all Australians.”

The funding is being provided over four years and is supported under the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme (IA-SEP).  Competitive grants of between $150,000 and $500,000 are allocated to successful projects that support community involvement and participation in scientific research.

The nine projects supported under this funding round include:

  • $479,554 for the Museum Board’s (South Australian Museum) “Insect Investigators” program, which engages community members in biodiversity discovery. Schools and community groups in SA, WA and Qld will monitor a Malaise trap, which passively collects flying insects. They will partner with professional taxonomic scientists to document local insect fauna, and potentially name any new species collected in their traps.
     
  • $499,323 for the Menzies School of Health Research to run its “Air in Alice” program. The program aims to raise awareness of air quality issues in Alice Springs caused by dust storms and high heat. Citizen scientists will collect environmental data and use it to develop adaptive solutions for the community.
     
  • $482,745 for Flinders University’s Passport to Recovery program, which will focus on recovery from bushfire on Kangaroo Island and building understanding of recovery from disaster and the impacts of environmental change. The program features culturally significant citizen science activities to engage tourists and locals in the science of recovery, incorporating relevant Indigenous cultural knowledge.
     
  • $499,729 for the “1MillionTurtles” program run by La Trobe University. The national program engages community members to monitor Australia’s declining turtle populations. Citizen scientists will feed their data into a mobile phone app. They will also be provided with training on how to protect turtle habitats from feral predators such as pigs and foxes.
     
  • $223,115 for the Mulloon Institute’s “Modelling Landscape Rehydration for Catchments, Communities and Curriculum” program, which works together with regional communities to help them better understand how local catchments work, with the aim of making changes that can improve soil rehydration, habit, biodiversity and agricultural yields.
     
  • $280,075 for the University of South Australia’s “Living Lightly Locally: Smarter and stronger through citizen science” program. Participants will engage in an adult education program that guides them to establish baseline household environmental and social data, such as water use, energy use, waste and transport, and set goals for improvement. This will empower them to effect change in their households, while reporting on progress in an interactive online portal.
     
  • $358,165 for the Australian Wine Research Institute’s “Yeast Catchers: fantastic yeasts and how to catch them” program. Citizen scientists will collect yeasts – critical to baking, brewing and pharmaceutical production – in their local area for genomic sequencing to identify and map their distributions across the country.
     
  • $448,136 for the “Turning gardeners into conservationists” program run by the Perth Region NRM Inc. Gardeners will be trained in wildlife survey techniques before implementing wildlife friendly features or actions in their gardens. Data collected before and after the changes are made will highlight the conservation value of residential gardens and wildlife friendly gardening.
     
  • $498,426 for the University of the Sunshine Coast to promote “Bushfire resilience using artificial intelligence and citizen science”. This project involves the design and implementation of NOBURN, an app for citizen scientists to capture photo evidence of fuel-loads, dryness and structure of forests. Artificial intelligence tools will be used to predict the probability, severity and burn area of potential bushfires based on images submitted.

More information about the projects can be found at: https://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/citizen-science-grants/grant-recipients-round-2