Clare's cover image
Clare

Clare Hawkins

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: Tasmania Animals > General
Environment > General
The Gallaugher Bequest Churchill Fellowship to design enduring methods that engage nature lovers to monitor wildlife population sizes and needs - USA, Hungary, UK
Download

The spotted-tailed quoll has a very similar lifestyle to the fossa, on which I did my PhD, and this brought me to Tasmania from Britain in 2001 to study its habitat requirements. I joined the State Government, where I spent four years monitoring the impact and distribution of Devil Facial Tumour Disease. I’m now Senior Zoologist for the Threatened Species Section, and Honorary Associate at the University of Tasmania’s School of Zoology.

I sought a Churchill Fellowship to learn how people around the world design successful, long-lasting citizen science projects to monitor wildlife. If the public is involved in the research, then the exercise of communicating and responding to the findings – how we might alter our activities to help look after our biodiversity – is greatly simplified.

I visited specialists in the development of citizen science as a tool, species specialists who used the approach every day, and statisticians specialising in the analysis of citizen science monitoring research. I’m aiming to establish surveys that are fun for the public to do while also delivering reliable, useful information.

Perhaps my most helpful discovery was that what I enjoy about scientific research is just what appeals to anyone else and will motivate them to stick with a project. I also learnt a lot about the latest solutions to some of the difficulties common in citizen science, for example, getting information from ‘boring’ or remote areas – yet without this information you don’t get a complete picture of the status of the species. Just as valuable were lessons in how best to communicate to make the science effective, maintain volunteer interest and elicit discussions of the findings.

I set up the Naturetrackers website and blog to communicate my Fellowship findings. This is now also a platform for a first citizen science project. Claws on the Line, established in collaboration with Tasmanian environmental educators The Bookend Trust, has the aim of engaging volunteers young and old to survey the endangered Central North burrowing crayfish.

To mark Threatened Species Day 2016, when we reflect on extinctions and try to recruit future citizen scientists, we’re working with councils to hold two Bioblitzes in northern and southern Tasmania in September. Once Claws is established, I would like to start realising additional projects; my Fellowship helped me firm up designs for a range of other threatened species.

The Fellowship substantially updated my knowledge of ecological survey and conservation approaches, and broadened my thinking. As I follow this up with Claws on the Line and the Bioblitzes, I’m loving both getting back to nature and working with the community – from professional and amateur naturalists and teachers, to the simply curious of all ages. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

Related fellows
Rikki Garstone, Rikki
Animals > General
2015
Kelly Hopewell, Kelly
Environment > General
2015
Susan Pritchard, Susan
Animals > General
2015
Jane Hall, Jane
Animals > General
2016
Carly McDermott, Carly
Animals > General
2016
Christopher White, Christopher
Environment > General
2013
Kelly Shepherd, Kelly
Environment > General
2012
Jennifer Turpin, Jennifer
Environment > General
2012
Craig Copeland, Craig
Environment > General
2012
Nathalie Nagalingum, Nathalie
Environment > General
2012