Hundreds of young people and their families are visiting Victoria’s national parks this week in what’s shaping up to be the largest event of its kind ever conducted in Australia.
Hosted by Parks Victoria, the Junior Rangers Spring BioQuest sees participants joining quests to find various plants and animals in 15 selected parks across the state.
Using a popular biodiversity gaming app called QuestaGame, the young adventurers will earn points for what they find and can correctly identify, with top-scorers earning prizes.
“Bio-quests are basically gamified bioblitzes, where people head outdoors to record all the wildlife they can find in a short time period” says QuestaGame CEO, Andrew Robinson. “Participants compete in real time, joining quests and earning points, while a network of online experts and co-players identify and verify what they find.”
The Junior Rangers Spring BioQuest follows on the heels of last month’s Great Australian Biodiversity Challenge, which was likely the largest bioblitz in Australia’s history. Held as part of National Science Week, the one-week event generated over 22,000 species identifications.
But based on registration numbers so far, according to Robinson, the Junior Ranger’s bio-quest is likely to surpass it.
“It’s a great way to encourage kids to explore Victoria’s amazing parks,” explains Melanie Brown, Education and Interpretation Manager of Parks Victoria. “They get to see the parks as exciting worlds rich with biodiversity just waiting to be discovered.”
These discoveries, meanwhile, are also good for science and conservation. The wildlife data collected during the Junior Rangers Spring BioQuest will be shared with Australia’s leading biodiversity databases to help researchers better understand, manage and make decisions about the environment.
“Parks Victoria’s Junior Rangers program is an excellent example of how humans and biodiversity are intricately connected,” says Robinson. “Getting our kids out into parks, learning species' names and helping map the biodiversity, not only contributes to our national parks, it contributes to the health and well-being of our kids."
The Junior Ranger Spring BioQuest starts tomorrow, September 23 and runs until October 8. For information about the participating parks and how to join, visit http://questagame.com/junior-rangers
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