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Survey Methods

Try out one or more of these survey methods to monitor your project.





Desktop study  You can learn a lot about the wildlife around you via the internet. By visiting trusted websites, you can quickly discover which species are locally common or rare. The desktop research method can be used when on-the-ground surveys are impractical and to understand species behaviour, appearance, and distribution.          It is really important to get your information from reliable sources, such as government, museum or specialised websites – and cross referencing is a smart idea!
Observational survey  Observations, or species sightings, can be logged:

a) By recording wildlife spotted from a single location (point) for a set period of time (e.g. 15 minutes).

b) By recording wildlife spotted while walking along a straight line of set distance (transect).
The observational method is used to observe a range of species, such as birds. You may choose to record animal sightings, as well as signs of animal presence including feathers, scats, tracks and nests. When choosing the transect method, it is important to be aware of trip hazards around you. 
It is helpful to bring an ID book/app, stopwatch, camera and clipboard to record your notes. 
Camera Traps  Motion triggered wildlife cameras are frequently used by biologists to capture images of a range of different animals. Camera traps are usually installed on trees or posts and can be placed near known food sources and nesting sites. Camera traps are usually installed on trees or posts and can survey a range of animals depending on their height and the bait used. They are particularly useful for nocturnal and secretive animals and can be triggered any time of the day or night. It’s important to set up your camera trap where it won’t be triggered by people walking past, and to move any vegetation which might set the camera off. Wildlife groups and councils can sometimes loan a camera trap, or you can hire or buy one.
Water Bug surveys You can identify water bugs in water samples collected from nearby streams or ponds. You can also look for invertebrates under rocks and wood (but replace these afterwards), and take note of any flying insects, like dragonflies, that you might see around the area.

Check our Helpful Links for an ID guide.
This method helps to identify the types of aquatic invertebrate species present indicating water quality, and the potential predators attracted for a meal. It is important to be safe and waterwise when working near water. Have an adult assist you. 

Take a net, tray or bucket and a magnifying glass – or use a smartphone. 

Remember to take only pictures and return all invertebrates to their habitat afterwards and be careful of cross-contamination between sites. 
Bioacoustic Surveys Bioacoustics refers to the sounds made by living organisms. Unique sounds can be used to identify specific species such as bats, birds and frogs.

Many apps and online resources exist to identify calls you record - see our Helpful Links.
Bioacoustics are used to identify different species of mammals, birds, and frogs – especially when they may not be seen, or their call is beyond the range of human hearing. Animal calls can be recorded on smartphones and identified using apps. 
There are also more sophisticated options available, such as for recording the high-pitched calls of microbats and identifying individual species from their unique sound profile. These are specialised, but some clubs and citizen science projects may assist.
Spotlight surveys Spotlighting is conducted at night by sweeping a torch across trees and the ground. It can be conducted in a single area, or by moving along a transect. The torch light will reflect the animals’ eye-shine. Mammals' eyes will often shine red, while spiders will shine green. Spotlighting is used to locate nocturnal mammals, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates. Tip: You can also use a UV torch to see invertebrates such as scorpions that glow in the dark! Be wary of trip hazards and possible habitats (such as hollows) – perhaps check out the location by daylight first. Do not shine bright light directly at an animal as it may damage their vision – direct it to one side and use a red filter on the torch for extended observation. 
Minibeast survey Try one of these methods:

Tree shake – lay a white cloth or tray under a tree and shake the branch vigorously. This will dislodge creatures that you can capture in a clear container and inspect.

Leaf litter search – scoop up leaf litter into a container and use a soft brush to investigate what invertebrates were captured.

Use a stick to move leaves, sticks, rotting bark and logs to see what is beneath them.
Doing an invertebrate survey is a great way to assess what your site can provide for other animals.

You can capture animals in a clear container or jar and use a magnifying glass to inspect them. Take a photo to record the find and identify it later. Make sure you release the invertebrate exactly where you found it.
Invertebrates can bite or sting. A few are venomous. Do not use your bare hands or have bare feet. Do not put your hands where you cannot see.

Roll logs towards you – this allows anything underneath to escape away from you (an important point in snake country!). 

Be gentle with insects – use a soft brush to gently push them into a container.
Photo Point Monitoring Take a photo from the exact same point at different times to compare the difference. A picture tells a thousand words as they say – you can visually show the difference! Take photos of the same location from a few different angles that way as it grows your view is still covered across the series of images.