The Walpole Wilderness BioBlitz 2023 will be held again in Walpole over the weekend of the 30 September & 1 October 2023, with briefings to be held on Friday 29th September and our annual WWBB dinner on the Saturday evening
The Walpole Wilderness BioBlitz (WWBB) will be held on the 30th September and 1st October 2023. A bioblitz is a citizen science project where volunteers from across the community join with local enthusiasts, amateur experts and scientists to survey the species found in an area over a short period of time. The information gathered provides a snapshot in time of the biodiversity of the area and can be used to help improve our understanding and long term management.
The Walpole Wilderness Area is the only gazetted wilderness in Western Australia. Although recognised for its outstanding beauty, highly specialised habitat, unique species and incredible biodiversity, this area is poorly studied. Located in the highest rainfall zone of WA, it contains a number of specialised habitats that act as refugia for species that are relics from ancient times. Climate change has caused a significant decrease in rainfall over the past few decades which has led to the decline or disappearance of some of these important relictual habitats. A bioblitz will record valuable information on rare, common and even new species in the Walpole Wilderness which will greatly contribute to our understanding and future management of this unique environment.
The WWBB is being coordinated by the Walpole Nornalup National Park Association (WNNPA) – a group of volunteers who focus on raising the understanding, care and conservation of the Walpole Wilderness Area. This year, the WWBB is a key event in a new and exciting 5 year project. The PEAT project (Protecting peatland ecosystems and addressing threats in Southwestern Australia) been established with funding from The Ian Potter Foundation. Guided by Noongar Elders, and co-led by The University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University, the project is a collaboration between academic and community-based scientists, managers, and volunteers, including the Undalup Association, the Department of Biodiversity, Conversation and Attractions, the Western Australian Museum and the Walpole-Nornalup National Park Association.
Walpole is located approximately 450km south of Perth, 120km west of Albany and 250km south east of Margaret River.
The WWBB will be held in the Soho Hills region of the wilderness. This is an incredibly diverse area with Rates Tingle and Red Flowering Gum forests as well as granites, peats and jarrah woodlands. The location is quite remote (about 50 minutes drive from Walpole) and accessible only by a 4WD vehicle so for those without a 4WD, we will be organising shared transport.
The WWBB will comprise a series of surveys conducted by groups of up to 10 individuals. Within each group there will be experienced volunteers/ experts who will guide the group as to how best to capture the species in the area. Most surveys will be about 3 hours long (Saturday morning 9 – 12, Saturday afternoon 1 – 3.30 and Sunday morning 9 – 12) but some groups may be out for longer. There will be a mix of activities to cater for differing levels of field experience and fitness. Most activities will include “off trail” walking (through vegetation and on uneven ground) with participants walking from up to 1km to over 10km.
We are aiming to capture as much information as possible through the online platform of iNaturalist. This app allows you to take a photo of a specimen, upload it, then a community of naturalists offer suggestions on the identity – it is a widely accepted and reliable database with all observations being collated into the Atlas of Living Australia. As a volunteer we urge you to download the app onto your phone prior to the WWBB and familiarise yourself with it. You can find out more here https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/ iNaturalist has a series of instructional videos, but contact us if you need help
There will be a central hub, Base Camp, in Walpole where registrations, identifications and networking will occur. This will be a great location for those not wishing to undertake field work but still wanting to volunteer with species identification and recording.
For those unable to attend in person, there will be the opportunity to participate remotely. Sensor cameras and sound recorders will be placed in the wilderness prior to event with photos and recordings being made available for identification purposes throughout the course of the event. Photos will be uploaded onto iNaturalist throughout the day and your help in identification of specimens will be greatly appreciated.
The timetable of events will be finalised closer to the date and will be forwarded to all registrants.
On Saturday evening there will be a social dinner with some guest speakers. This will provide a great opportunity to meet new, like minded people and to spend time with some of the experts. We will discuss the exciting observations of the day.
This year the dinner and Friday night registrations will be held at the Walpole Country Club.
Accommodation is available in Walpole and nearby in Denmark (70km). Contact the Walpole Visitor Centre on 98401111 for more information.
What do I need to bring
Hiking gear (including waterproof clothing)
Food , water, snacks (food can be purchased in Walpole, but there are no shops near the survey site)
Phone with iNaturalist loaded and ready to go
It is important that our activities don’t harm the very species that we are trying to protect, so we urge everyone to be aware of bush etiquette (eg toileting in the bush).
Phytophthora dieback and Chytrid fungus are a huge threat in the wilderness and every group will be required to follow strict hygiene protocols – you can help by ensuring that your footwear, hiking poles etc are completely clean before the event.
Collecting of samples (even picking flowers) is not permitted without a licence from DBCA. You can easily organise a licence through DBCA, but this must be done a few months before the event as processing times can be lengthy. Please let us know if you have a collectors licence.
Our indigenous heritage is incredibly important in the Walpole Wilderness. It is often found in the placement of stones around granite outcrops, which mean that it is important to leave any stones undisturbed as they may be of significance to the traditional custodians.
The most important part of mindfulness is to stop and take a moment to immerse yourself in the amazing environment that is the Walpole Wilderness. Look around at the amazing array of species; the diversity of habitats; the miniature world. Take the opportunity to consider the generations that have been here before us and the legacy that we are leaving for the next generations.
The WWBB is only possible through the support of our volunteers and sponsoring organisations. Thank you!