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Citizen science app helping to plot climate changes

04 April 2018

ClimateWatch App

If a bird’s migration, triggered by temperature changes at a certain time of year on the other side of Australia, or the world, how does that affect plants and other animals here?

Sounds like a riddle? It is, but it’s a real-world riddle that scientists think can illustrate the impact of climate change.

Downloading the ClimateWatch app from Earthwatch allows you to photograph a plant or animal, compare it with others in the database and have it automatically geo-located and put in a database used by researchers, planners and policy-makers.

The CEO of Earthwatch Australia, Cassandra Nichols, says the project was an opportunity to bring nature to people

“What ClimateWatch is looking at is changes to the timing of events, so what we are able to do is find out whether plants are flowering or birds or animals are breeding earlier Dr Marie Keatley from the University of Melbourne said the data would fill important gaps in Australian science.

“Compared with the northern hemisphere, Australia has a very poor record of when things flower, when birds arrive or disappear, and they are really simple indicators of a changing climate.”

“Once we’ve built 10 plus years of records, we’ll be able to say, ‘These observations have changed’ and we’ll be able to see if that’s happening quickly or not.”

The app can be used by scientists, planners and policy makers to make more informed decision and it bring together an enormous body of community knowledge, says Parks Victoria’s Director of Community Partnerships Tony Varcoe.

“Although you can record a sighting anywhere, a series of trails have been set up around the country which can help provide data for specific locations over time.

Chris Vella from Cool Australia, a non-profit which produces environmentally-themed course material for more than 80,000 teachers around the country, said the app was making school more relevant to students.

“Climate Watch provides the real-world context of what they have been learning. They’ll often ask ‘Why are we learning this?’. Now we can show them.”

Listen to more about the ClimateWatch app