Citizen science sets sights on supporting Wedge-tailed eagles

THREATENED TASMANIAN: Wedge-tailed eagles could benefit from citizen science. Picture: Paul Scambler
THREATENED TASMANIAN: Wedge-tailed eagles could benefit from citizen science. Picture: Paul Scambler

The iconic Wedge-tailed eagles could be the first Tasmanian species to benefit from a state-wide citizen scientist project.

“With the eagles, an estimate more than 10 years ago, suggested there were fewer than 1000 individuals in Tasmania and there hasn’t been any monitoring since then so we literally don’t know if things are better or worse,” Dr Hawkins said.

“We’re doing various things to protect them, but we don’t know if they’re worthwhile or effective.”

The Wedge-tailed eagle would be the first Tasmania species to be monitored to check how conservation efforts were going if the project could raise $500,000 in a year, Dr Hawkins said.

“Once we’ve got lots people motivated and hopefully they’re really excited about looking out and learning more about eagles, we’ll also start sneaking in less iconic species."

Dr Clare Hawkins

“If we have the right information, we will have the right idea of what to do.”

The Tasmanian Community Fund has offered $250,000 in funding, but it is conditional to the other half fundraised in the next 12 months.

They would be applying for grants as well as approaching corporations and funds to jump on board as their proposal was good for the community, environment, science, conservation and education, she said.

If they reach their funding target within the 12 month deadline, they would have enough funding to set up the project for the next three years, Dr Hawkins said.

That would establish what they wanted to do, particularly with promotions, setting up a website and working with schools to spur interest, she said.

“Once we’ve got lots people motivated and hopefully they’re really excited about looking out and learning more about eagles, we’ll also start sneaking in less iconic species,” Dr Hawkins said.

A state government spokesman said official counts were not usually undertaken for any species in Tasmania as this was only possible in circumstances where all available habitat for a species could be surveyed.

“Instead, most species populations are almost always expressed as population estimates,” he said.

“As part of the process of preparing a recovery plan for both the wedge-tailed eagle and white bellied sea eagle, an estimate of the population size of each species was made.”

The state government would continue to support and engage citizen scientists to record eagle sightings to improve its ability to estimate the population size, he said.

“The Tasmanian Government has invested in Wedge-tailed eagle conservation in multiple forms over the last few years, spread across many organisations and individuals.”