Southern right whales are frequently spotted off the coast of south-western Victoria. Photo: DELWP

Online tool to help collate whale sightings

June 12, 2019 BY

A NEW online tool has been launched for citizen scientists and casual whale watchers along the Victorian coast to contribute sightings and photographs to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

A partnership between DELWP’s Barwon South West Region and the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, the uploader tool allows community members to quickly and easily report whale sightings.

DELWP natural environment programs officer Mandy Watson said the tool was an efficient, modern way for people to contribute valuable data to the department’s whale sightings databases, including identifying images of the critically endangered southern right whale.

“It’s a very user-friendly online portal that allows people to report whale sightings on an interactive map and upload photographs in one click.

“The uploader, available at swifft.net.au, builds on our previous southern right whale citizen science program, making it easier for more community members to get involved.”

She said citizen scientists contributed two-thirds of the whale identifications collated by DELWP over the past two years.

“Sightings and photos which capture the key identifying features of the whales are a vital component of the south east Australian southern right whale research program.

“Reports and images from the community can provide a really meaningful contribution to our understanding of this species to help us better support its recovery.”

Arthur Rylah Institute scientist Dr Kasey Stamation said the launch of the whale uploader tool was part of a wider refresh to the State Wide Integrated Flora and Fauna Teams (SWIFFT).

“It is quite fitting that the whale uploader tool is being launched on World Environment Day – a day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment.

“SWIFFT is an independent network of organisations with an interest in in threatened species and biodiversity conservation that links government, community, education and conservation sectors.

“The new SWIFFT website is a major refresh of the old site and contains an extraordinary wealth of information and resources.

“It now has an interactive citizen science capability, enabling Southern Right Whale watchers along the Victorian coast to upload their photos to SWIFFT and contribute to the whale database.”

To add southern right whale sightings to the database, head to swifft.net.au, click on “Contribute” and then the ‘Southern Right Whale photo identification project’ page.