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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