Researchers call on Port Stephens residents to report koala sightings

CITIZEN SCIENCE: University of Newcastle conservation scientist Dr Ryan Witt has been dropping flyers into letterboxes across Port Stephens to encourage residents to take part in a community koala survey.
CITIZEN SCIENCE: University of Newcastle conservation scientist Dr Ryan Witt has been dropping flyers into letterboxes across Port Stephens to encourage residents to take part in a community koala survey.

Flyers and magnets encouraging residents to report their koala sightings to a FAUNA Research Alliance and University of Newcastle study have been making their way into letterboxes right across the Port this month.

UoN conservation scientist Dr Ryan Witt and his team have been beating the pavement to drop 33,000 information leaflets into letterboxes as they look to collect data on the locations and movements of koalas in the area.

"A survey like this hasn't been done since the 1990s," Dr Witt said.

"There are so many unknowns about koala population levels but if we can piece together an accurate picture of the population, we'll be able to understand the risks they face and put plans in place to stop their decline.

"We have a pretty good idea of where koalas are but there is a gap in how much we know about koalas on private land.

"In One Mile in particular, which is popular with koalas, there's a lot of private land. Information that residents can provide us is invaluable to us.

"Knowing the whereabouts of koalas in Port Stephens as well as what you think and feel about your local koalas will help us understand how and where koalas live and how we can help them survive."

The citizen science initiative aims to capture a complete picture of the Port Stephens koala population, which according to to inform a koala monitoring program that will help protect the species.

The data will also be used by two members of Dr Witt's team and PhD candidates, Shelby Ryan and Alana Burton. The data from the survey will be used to inform their research on conserving koalas in the region.

The survey asks residents to report the details of their sightings and observations, such as the apparent health of the animal, sex and whether it was with a joey.

Dr Witt said that since the launch of the survey in November, there had been more than 210 responses.

The survey closes at the end of April. As an incentive to participate, everyone who submits a response goes in the running to win prizes.

The survey, and more information on the project, can be found at faunaresearchalliance.com/fauna/projects/koala.