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1198043_Lawton,J_2022.pdf (3.85 MB)

Citizen science and community action provide insights on a threatened species: nest box use by the brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa)

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-04, 02:53 authored by Jessica LawtonJessica Lawton, Greg HollandGreg Holland, Chris Timewell, Asha Bannon, Elizabeth Mellick, Andrew BennettAndrew Bennett
Context: Landscape management and restoration in rural environments is frequently driven by community groups, who often use 'flagship' species to generate broader engagement. In south-eastern Australia, installation of nest boxes for hollow-dependent fauna is undertaken by many groups. Monitoring the outcomes of such projects offers opportunities for citizen science. Aims: The aim of the present study was to report on a community-led project to install and monitor nest boxes to enhance the conservation of a threatened species, the brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa), and to investigate the extent of nest box use, factors influencing use, changes in use through time, and the effectiveness of nest boxes as a monitoring tool. Methods: A community group installed 450 nest boxes across 150 sites to monitor and provide habitat for the brush-tailed phascogale. Of these, 102 sites were stratified in relation to: (1) geographic sub-region; (2) forest patch size; and (3) topographic position. Nest boxes were inspected five times over 8 years. We modelled factors influencing nest box use at the tree, site, and landscape level. We compared nest box data with data from camera traps at 50 sites to assess their value as a monitoring tool. Key results: In any given survey, up to 6% of nest boxes had individuals present and up to 22% had evidence of use by the brush-tailed phascogale. There was greater use of nest boxes when installed on 'stringybark' type trees than 'box' and 'gum-barked' species. Nest box use was greater for sites on forest slopes than in gullies, and use varied between years. Surveys using remote cameras were more effective at detecting phascogales than monitoring nest boxes. Conclusions: Nest box monitoring can provide insights into the distribution and habitat requirements of hollow-dependent species, and engage the community in citizen science. Elements that enhance community-led monitoring include scientific input to project design, collecting data in a consistent manner, allocating sufficient time for data curation, engaging people invested in project outcomes, maintaining good relationships with stakeholders, and sharing data for analysis. Implications: Collaboration between scientists and community groups can be of benefit to both parties. However, to maximise scientific and conservation outcomes there must be effective engagement and adequate resourcing for project coordination.


Publication Date



Wildlife Research






16p. (p. 513-528)





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© 2022 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC)