The terrible recent bushfires across many parts of Australia have destroyed homes, vegetation and natural habitats, and cost the lives of dozens of people. It's also been estimated that over one billion animals were killed in the fires (mammals, birds and reptiles only, not including invertebrates).
Recovery in many affected areas is only just starting, and in the last few weeks, a new citizen science initiative has been created to help to collect data on this process. The Environment Recovery Project, created by researchers at the University of New South Wales, allows members of the public to document observations of both the effects of the fires on animals and plants, and the potential reappearance of some species.
After joining the project online, people can use either a mobile app or the website to upload photos, videos and audio recordings of observations of animals and plants, living and dead, native or non-native, in the fire-affected areas.
The aim is to enlist the public in collecting data about the extent of species destruction, and about the degree of recovery of ecosystems. The species recorded in the observations are identified by expert members of the project, and once verified, some observations are classified as "research grade". The data is freely available to anyone who wants to make use of it.
Currently there are over 1600 observations (most of them from the east coast of Australia, with only a few so far from here in South Australia). These include photos of burnt trees and bird bones, as well as of living plants and animals. A number of photos show plants beginning to emerge from a blackened landscape around them. It's encouraging also to see not just the "charismatic" koalas and kangaroos, but also many observations of insect species, including honey bees, dragonflies, bee flies and wasps, as well as various ants and beetles.
The link to the Environment Recovery Project can be found here: