Ready for the Largest BioBlitz in Australia's History?

FOURTH ANNUAL “GREAT AUSSIE BIOQUEST” OFFERS $10,000 in CASH AND PRIZES

— for immediate release —


Australians are getting ready to participate in the fourth annual Great Aussie BioQuest, a competition to help map and protect the country’s biodiversity.

The event, which runs during National Science Week (10-18 August) is once again expected to be the largest coordinated “bioblitz” - an intensive, time-bound survey of species - in Australia’s history.

“The recent IPBES report on biodiversity makes it clear that we need to radically transform our approach to biodiversity conservation,” says Dr. Mallika Robinson, Director and Co-Founder of QuestaGame, the citizen science app which developed and has hosted the competition for the last four years.

“Thanks to all the partners involved, the Great Aussie BioQuest will collect and verify more biodiversity data in one month than many citizen science projects can hope to collect in years.”

As part of the Great Aussie BioQuest, scores go both toward individual performance and are grouped according to state or territory, which means participants can see how their state or territory compares against others.

This year $10,000 worth of cash and prizes will be distributed among organisations and players from the Australian state or territory which earns the most points during the competition.

“The great thing is that anyone in Australia, of any skill level, can participate at the same time,” says David Haynes, a co-founder of QuestaGame. “If you don’t know the name of what you find, the app will identify it for you.”

The BioQuest also rewards higher scores for more remarkable sightings, with scores being scaled according to season and location. So for example sightings in Melbourne during winter are likely to earn more points than in Cairns, where it’s warmer and more biodiversity is visible.

That said, last year’s winner was Queensland, followed by Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

”It really comes down to participation and effort,” says Robinson. “The competition is intense, but it’s a lot of fun too. You get to have fun, learn lots of things about what you find, and contribute 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 over 20,000 sightings and identifications.

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. The app is often called the “Pokémon GO of real life” and recently received Australia’s prestigious Eureka Prize.

“At the end of the day, 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 had a new species of spider named after him.

In addition to empowering tens of thousands of players to discover, learn about and help map biodiversity, QuestaGame engages the expert communities of over 100 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.

Anyone, anywhere in Australia, can join the Great Aussie BioQuest by playing QuestaGame during National Science Week (10-18 August).

To find out more about QuestaGame, visit www.questagame.com

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For further media information contact info@questagame.com

Sri Lankan Team Sweeps to Victory in the 2019 University BioQuest

“Biodiversity is the Real Winner”

A team of university students in Sri Lanka has virtually swept the third annual University BioQuest competition - a global competition in which university staff, students and communities around the world compete to map biodiversity through a mobile gaming app.

What started with just two universities in 2017 - Sydney in Australia and Santa Barbara in the US - has grown to 50 universities from 14 countries this year.

What started with just two universities in 2017 - Sydney in Australia and Santa Barbara in the US - has grown to 50 universities from 14 countries this year.

This year’s competition involved 50 teams in 14 different countries, from Australia to India to the USA, and generated over 94000 sightings and identifications. Most the resulting species data is shared with national and global biodiversity databases for scientific research and conservation. 

“Some of the discoveries where simply incredible,” says Mallika Robinson, director and co-founder of QuestaGame, the gaming app which the players use during the competition. “The Peradeniya team was finding new genera and species not  recorded previously in the wild. But it wasn’t just Sri Lankan players finding cool life forms. Players from Laos, India, Malaysia, Australia made some interesting discoveries as well. One student found an earless dragon near Adelaide - a species that’s hard to spot.”

There was no doubt the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, first timers in the competition, stood out among the field. They not only took the champion spotters team trophy, but racked up the top score for identifications as well. 

“The game has changed our lifestyles,” says Anushka Tennakoon, captain of the Peradeniya team. “We’ve learned to enjoy the environment around us.  It’s opened our eyes.”

A Peradeniya player named Thiranya concurred and credited the leadership of Tennakoon.

A rarely seen stick insect (Trachythorax sparaxes) from bogzzi of the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

A rarely seen stick insect (Trachythorax sparaxes) from bogzzi of the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

“He gave us a lot of guidance,” says Thiranya. “The game totally changed our way of thinking about biodiversity. Now we feel an even greater need to protect it.”

The top individual awards, meanwhile, also went to a Peradeniya player named “Dodo,” who won both the champion spotter and champion identifier awards. Even the highest scoring find, a stick insect named Trachythorax sparaxes, went to a player named “bogzzi,” also from the University of Peradeniya.

“The stick insect was identified by Dr. Paul Brock,” explains Robinson. “The very researcher who has recently re-verified the taxonomy of the species. It was the first record of the insect on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, which is the global map for species distributions.” 

But Sri Lanka didn’t sweep the competition entirely. The most valuable team award went to a group of tutors from the University of Adelaide, led by a player named “octonaughts”; while Macquarie University, led by Jenny Donald, scored second place in identifications and third place in spotting. 

Melbourne University, led by “QueenoftheBugs” and “Phascolarctos,” took second place in spotting; and several other teams performed at a very high level. 

“The competition seems to get more competitive every year,” says Robinson. “More players, better sightings, higher levels of expertise, higher quality data.”

“The idea behind the competition,” she adds, “is to connect more people to nature, increase environmental literacy, and support biodiversity conservation with real data.  If the University BioQuest is any indication, it seems to be working. Biodiversity is the real winner here.”

The complete results can be viewed at http://questagame.com/unibioquest

Mobile Gamers Test their Skills to Raise Money for BirdLife Australia

Australians will soon have a chance to raise funds for BirdLife Australia by identifying bird photographs submitted through QuestaGame, a popular mobile gaming app.

The event, the “Feathered Frenzy BioQuest,” runs from 19 February to 3 March. Participants submit and help identify photos of birds through the QuestaGame mobile app, with higher scores awarded for more remarkable finds of different bird species. 

Thanks to a pledge from The Garry White Foundation, BirdLife Australia will receive $1 for every correct bird identification submitted through QuestaGame’s app during the BioQuest period (with a current maximum limit of $6000). The money will go toward BirdLife’s program to help protect beach-nesting birds. 

“It’s a very innovative model,” says Philippa Hodson, Executive Director of The Garry White Foundation. “It not only funds BirdLife's fantastic program of protecting beach-nesting birds, but it allows us, in a fun way, to engage the public in learning more about Australia’s birds and encouraging citizen scientists to help map biodiversity.”

Dr. Mallika Robinson, co-founder and Director of QuestaGame, says the program fits neatly with QuestaGame’s existing BioQuest program, in which individuals and teams compete against each other to help map species around the world.

“We’re running more and more BioQuests every month," says Dr. Robinson. “It occurred to us, rather than simply award points or prizes, why not create a program that channels funds directly to conservation organisations, and gets people learning about wildlife while helping map biodiversity for research and conservation?”

QuestaGame’s most recent BioQuest, the “Butterfly and Moth Mania BioQuest,” generated reports of over 1000 unique species in just 12 days, including a rare hawk moth, Eupanacra splendens, from a player named Kyrsten, and a yet to be described species of day-flying Lithosiini moth discovered by a QuestaGame player named Penelope.

“Helping people learn about birds is a fundamental part of BirdLife’s effort to protect Australia’s precious bird species,” says Ralf Stenard of BirdLife Australia. “Education and conservation go hand in hand, by both educating the public and providing resource for our conservation programs.”

The QuestaGame app allows members of the community to report any plant or animal they see and receive identifications from experts. BioQuest competitions offer a more targeted survey method in conjunction with land managers and conservation groups. Linking these events with a new fundraising opportunity rewards the expertise and interests of members of the community, while increasing understanding of local biodiversity.

“There’s definitely an economic gain to involving the public in biodiversity research and conservation,” says Dr. Robinson, citing a 2015 paper in the journal Biodiversity Conservation which estimates roughly $1000 of economic value per year for each citizen scientist engaged in biodiversity projects. 

“So for donors, not only does your money go to the conservation project, but you’re adding value through increased public participation, awareness, education, and citizen science.”

Meanwhile, when the Feathered Frenzy BioQuest begins on February 19, participants of all ages, all across Australia, can not only have fun getting outdoors and photographing birds, but their identification skills will raise money to help protect the very creatures they adore.
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For more information, see:

Or contact:

  • John Martin - Media spokesperson (QuestaGame), phone: (04)47.487.094

  • Philippa Hodson - Executive Director, Garry White Foundation, info@gwf.org.au

  • Birdlife - info@birdlife.org.au

Nature Gaming App Claims Top Science Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science

Nature Gaming App Claims Top Science Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science

Games are not normally on the agenda when the cream of Australia's science community come together each year to celebrate their achievements. This year, however, the nature mapping game, ‘QuestaGame,’ was a winner at the nation’s top science prizes. The 2018 Australia Museum Eureka Prizes, considered the ‘Oscars’ of Australian science, were awarded at Sydney Town Hall on the 29th August.

Mobile Game Selected as Finalist for Top Australian Science Prize

Mobile Game Selected as Finalist for Top Australian Science Prize

Games are not normally on the agenda when the cream of Australia's science community come together each year to celebrate their achievements. This year, however, the innovative nature mapping game, ‘QuestaGame,’ will be among finalists for the nation’s top science prizes. The winners of the 2018 Australia Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced at an awards dinner at Sydney Town Hall on the 29th August.

Universities Prepare for Global Competition to Map Nature

Universities Prepare for Global Competition to Map Nature

High in the Himalayan city of Thimpu, students of the Royal University of Bhutan are busy practicing for a competition that will pit them against their counterparts at universities around the world - from the United States to Australia to the Philippines. But this is no ordinary challenge. University teams will be getting outdoors to discover, learn about, map and ultimately help protect life on Earth.