Can you tell your cats from your dingoes or your wallabies from your wallaroo?
Then Dingo? Bingo! is your chance to identify dingoes (and other wildlife) in photos and help scientists better understand and manage dingo populations.
An online citizen science project, Dingo? Bingo! is asking for the public's help in detecting dingoes and other animals among images retrieved from a network of camera-traps.
More than 64 cameras have been installed in the Myall Lakes, which is home to an important coastal population of dingoes and a long-term study into dingo ecology and management.
The Myall Lakes dingo project, established in 2019 in collaboration with Centre for Ecosystem Science at UNSW, Taronga Conservation Society, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and MidCoast Council).and supported by the Hermon Slade Foundation and Taronga Conservation Society Australia, aims to develop and test non-lethal management techniques and add to our understanding of dingo behaviour and ecology along the way.
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Dingoes are an iconic and valuable part of the Australian ecosystem.
But, where dingoes co-occur with humans - campgrounds, towns,beaches or livestock areas - they can also cause issues.
These conflicts are conventionally, and controversially, managed by lethal means.
The question is are there non-lethal alternatives for deterring dingoes from these places?
Researchers are testing whether the dingoes' own signals can be used to deter them and invasive predators from particular areas.
Dingoes use howls and scent marks to communicate ownership of space, and so by simulating their presence in an area the team hope to be able to deter them from specific areas.
"In some circumstances, living alongside dingoes can be challenging," lead researcher and UNSW senior lecturer, Neil Jordan said.
"This project hopes to develop tools and strategies to limit the negative impacts that dingoes have in specific areas, while still allowing them to perform their ecological role as apex predator across the wider landscape," Dr Jordan said.
This project hopes to develop tools and strategies to limit the negative impacts that dingoes have in specific areas, while still allowing them to perform their ecological role as apex predator across the wider landscape.- Lead researcher and UNSW senior lecturer, Neil Jordan
Part of that ecological role may be suppressing invasive foxes.
"There's good evidence from a number of studies that animals retreat from the sound of their predators," co-lead researcher and Taronga's behavioural biologist, Ben Pitcher said.
"As dingoes sometimes kill foxes and cats, we're also testing the idea that these smaller carnivores may avoid areas where they believe dingoes are present - where they hear a dingo howl for example," Dr Pitcher said.
To test their idea, the team has set up 12 automated speaker systems, playing back dingo howls intermittently through the night.
More than 60 remote camera-traps were also positioned around these sites along the dingoes' main thoroughfares: trails and roads.
And that's where Dingo? Bingo! comes in.
Sifting through 50,000 images is a tall order for any researcher, and so the team decided to share the load and the joy of participating in this work.
Nevertheless, as UNSW PhD student Brendan Alting explains, the team remain active participants themselves.
"It's always awesome seeing an unexpected quoll or koala pop up on an image, and so I wouldn't say we've been 100 per cent successful in passing this on entirely to citizen science- it's quite addictive."
Getting started on Dingo? Bingo!, users are notified of the various animal groups they might observe in the photos (bandicoot, horse, reptiles etc), instructed how to submit their identification, and, finally, which details they might add. Is it a dingo? Bingo!
To ensure they're accurately classified, each photo is displayed to 20 users, and only if there is a high degree of agreement are they classified, with the research team reviewing any debated classifications.
"You'll probably see a number of fox, cat and dingo images on the platform, and this doesn't necessarily mean that the experiment hasn't worked," Dr Jordan said.
"To properly test for any effect of the howls we are also playing back control sounds, including ambient noise, and we'll compare these treatments using the data contributed through 'Dingo? Bingo'."
Pending the success of this trial, the team behind Dingo? Bingo! and the Myall Lakes Dingo Project plans on furthering their work on non-lethal management and into dingo behaviour and ecology more broadly.
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