Seriously Intrepid Koala Scat Surveys

 

Come and join the Intrepid Koala Scat Survey and help us to conserve koalas in the Blue Mountains region.

The scat surveys we ran in 2018 were a great success and helped us to produce maps of koala habitats across our first study site in Wollemi and the Hawkesbury. This year we’re scaling up and running them again, with the support of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and this time we’re surveying a huge area including some remote country across the mountains. We need your help!

Koalas are listed as a threatened species in NSW, QLD and the ACT and they are in decline across most of the species range. The Blue Mountains is a potentially important stronghold for them, but we know little about the koalas in this region. Mapping where koalas occur is a critical first step in helping us to understand their ecology, the threats they face and their needs. We’ve found that koalas can use trees that are over 45m tall in some areas and they can be extremely hard to see up in the canopy. That’s where scat surveys come in.

Scat surveys are a great way to discover what different species have been up to when no-one was around to observe them. This project involves carrying out koala scat surveys across a range of different habitats, and you’ll also encounter scats from other species along the way and learn about scat identification techniques. You can also pick up some basic Eucalypt identification skills as we identify the tree species in each habitat we survey. Come and learn the art of scatology!

looking out at survey sites from Flat Rock

We can’t promise that you’ll see a koala, but you’ll get to explore some beautiful country and you’ll be making a big contribution as the scat surveys will help us to map which habitats koalas use in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Once we have that information we can identify which habitats are the most important for koala conservation. We are also undertaking ecological studies of koalas at some sites, including tracking them to work out where they move and what threats they face. This information is then shared with land managers including the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the Rural Fire Service and private land holders.

Location and getting there:

The scat surveys are running from Kanangra-Boyd National Park across the Blue Mountains National Park and down to western Sydney. Once you register we’ll let you know which region we’ll be surveying on the days you can make it.

You’ll need your own transport, or otherwise to arrange a car pool with other volunteers as there is no public transport to the survey sites. All survey sites will be accessible by 2WD vehicle, otherwise we will ferry you in our 4WD from an agreed meeting point for that day.

Each block of 4 days of surveys will be based out of a different area, and they typically run from Thursday to Sunday inclusive,  every week from now until the end of March 2019. Once you have registered below you will receive more details on where to meet etc.

koala survey sites in red
Some of the survey sites we are aiming to get to are outlined in the red squares on the map above.
Are you up for the challenge?

What is involved:

First thing in the morning you’ll be given an induction and safety briefing, and then you’ll have a quick practice spotting some koala scats on the ground. Depending on how long the walk to each survey site is, we plan to complete at least 3 scat searches and vegetation surveys per day, possibly more. There may also be some driving in between sites, often on dirt roads.

Each scat search will be done at a pre-mapped site that we walk into. Once we get there we measure out the exact survey area, to include 30 trees, and then we all search the leaf-litter and see what we can find! We’ll also check what tree species are present, to confirm that the vegetation type that is listed on the vegetation map matches what is actually on the ground. If we find a koala scat, we will first have an excited celebration, then we mark a GPS point and identify the nearest tree species. In many places koala scats are rare, but you’re likely to find scats from wallabies, wombats, and other native critters. Knowing where koalas don’t occur is as important as knowing where they do occur.

Requirements:

The survey locations can be remote so you must be competent in bushwalking off-track, ie through sometimes thick understorey vegetation, and up and down forested slopes. Some sites will be on ridgelines, others in valleys and along creek lines. A reasonable level of fitness is required as sometimes the slopes are steep. You can choose below if you’d like to join us on the easier access sites or the more remote sites. A team leader will take you to each site using a GPS. It takes a while to get your eye in for scat counts, so we’d like all participants to commit to helping for a minimum of 2 days. Beyond that, you can come out as often as you’d like!

 SIGN UP!

Using the form below, please include details of when and how you’d like to help:
1. Let us know if you would prefer to join us on easy access sites (generally within a 2km walk from the vehicle), or remote sites which include longer day walks and some overnight hikes. For remote sites you’ll need suitable off-track hiking and navigation experience and all your own camping gear. You can tick both options.

2. Tell us what dates (or range of dates) you’re available, and we’ll get back to you with some options depending on whether you’re interested in easy access or remote sites.  We only run one type of survey (easy or remote) on each day. Surveys run from Thursday to Sunday inclusive, until the end of March 2019.

Please include your phone number so we can notify you of any changes to the survey schedule due to weather or unforeseen circumstances.
You’ll need to enable pop-ups on your web browser for the form to work – keep an eye out for the warning when you click “subscribe”.

Register for our Koala Scat Surveys

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Your main interest

Project Partners

Science for Wildlife is working in Partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, who are providing support for us to map koala distribution in the Blue Mountains region under their Saving Our Species program. This year we’re also working their Science Division on their state-wide koala mapping project. The Blue Mountains Koala Project is also supported by San Diego Zoo Global.

 

FAQs

Is there a minimum age requirement to take part?

The surveys involve long days in the field, plus a lot of walking. For that reason the event is not suitable for children under the age of 16.

What should I bring into the event?

There are no shops nearby so you’ll need to bring a day-pack and carry your own water (a guide is 2L per person per day, more in hot weather), lunch and snacks, plus sunblock and insect repellent. A personal First Aid kit is also a good idea, your team leader will also have a First Aid kit. Wear hiking boots with ankle support, and long trousers (bring gaiters if you have them), plus a long-sleeved shirt and hat. The bush can be spikey so leggings are not advisable, and gloves can be handy (pun intended). The weather in the mountains is changeable so bring a waterproof jacket and appropriate layers to stay warm. Please check the weather forecast before you leave. There are no toilets nearby so be prepared to make a bush toilet stop if needed (dig a hole and bury your waste, at least 100m from any waterway).

How can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Send an email to us and include the Intrepid Koala Scat Survey in the subject line.
During the event and during other fieldwork this month we will be out of mobile phone coverage so email is the most reliable method of contacting us. Once you register you’ll receive contact phone numbers for our team, but please note that messages might not be received until the end of each day, or possibly the next day.
Please note that once you’ve registered we’ll be sending you some more information by email.