Australians across the country are getting ready to participate in what’s likely to be Australia’s largest bioblitz ever.
The event, which is called the Great Aussie BioQuest, has become an annual part of National Science Week, which runs from the 11th to 19th of August.
“A typical bioblitz is an intense period of biological surveying, in a designated area, over a set time period,” says Andrew Robinson, CEO and co-founder of QuestaGame, the popular mobile gaming app which provides the technology for the BioQuest.
“The difference with the Great Aussie BioQuest is that anyone in Australia, of any skill level, can participate at the same time. The ‘designated area’ here is all of Australia.”
This year, there’s another difference as well. The QuestaGame app, which awards higher scores for more valuable finds, will combine scores by state and territory. Participants in the the Great Aussie BioQuest can see how their state or territory compares against others.
“It’s going to be interesting to see which state or territory scores highest,” says David Haynes, co-founder of QuestaGame and head of user experience. “The competition is intense - but people are having fun and contributing to scientific research at the same time.”
The biodiversity data collected during the Great Aussie BioQuest contributes to national and international biodiversity databases for scientific research and conservation. Last year’s BioQuest generated tens of thousands of sightings and identifications over the course of the week.
This year offers participants another first as well. Australia Geographic has come on board as a sponsor, which means participants can win prizes such as an Australian Geographic Adventurer Prize Pack.
“Australian Geographic supports Australian adventurers, conservation, scientific and environmental research,” says Chrissie Goldrick, Editor in Chief of Australian Geographic. “A big part of this is supporting community projects across the nation that also encourage scientific discover which is what the BioQuest is about.”
To be part of the BioQuest, participants simply download the free-to-play QuestaGame app, the world’s first outdoor biodiversity gaming app aimed at connecting players to nature and experts. QuestaGame also provides expert-verified environmental data for scientific research. The app is often called the “Pokémon GO of real life” and is among finalists for Australia’s top science prizes later this month.
“The Great Aussie BioQuest is really about discovering Australia,” says Robinson. “Our players are seeing things few people in Australia ever notice.”
QuestaGame players have found some particularly high-scoring plants and animals, including species listed as endangered, or as invasive threats, as well as numerous undescribed or potentially new species. One player even recently had a new species of spider named after him.
“Recently we had a player unexpectedly come across a Regent Honeyeater - a critically endangered bird.” says Robinson. “Sightings such as this help researchers and conservationists better understand how to protect biodiversity.”
In addition to empowering tens of thousands of players to discover, learn about and help map biodiversity, QuestaGame engages the expert communities of over 90 conservation groups in species identification. Through the Pays to Know Nature Program, people can raise money for their chosen conservation causes by providing correct identifications of the sightings being submitted by players. During National Science Week, there will be $1,300 in Pays to Know Nature bonus up for grabs for conservation partners.
Anyone, anywhere in Australia, can join the Great Aussie BioQuest during National Science Week (11-19 August), get outside, explore nature, and start an adventure to help protect Australia’s wildlife.
To find out more about QuestaGame, visit www.questagame.com
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