Introducing "Threatened Australians"

As CBCSers know only too well, Australia’s biodiversity is in a parlous state. Predictions show that the situation is going to drastically worsen over the next decades. But a new web app, Threatened Australians, launched during the campaigning period for the 21 May federal election, helped to put the plight of Australia’s threatened species on the political agenda.

The team, CBCS PhD candidate Gareth Kindler and Professor James Watson along with designer Dr Nick Kelly from QUT and web developer Tim Carden, pushed to launch the Threatened Australians project before the election to address the lack of attention that biodiversity loss received during the campaign. A major issue is that many in the wider public don’t recognise the problem – that we are sleepwalking into an extinction crisis that, with the right political will, we can easily avert. But how often did we hear it raised in the election campaign?

A voice for threatened species

There is no doubt many Australians have a strong desire for better protection of the environment, yet many of these same people do not have access to engaging resources that facilitate informed actions. Threatened Australians is an attempt to fill this gap by pulling on the strings of the geographical electoral system. The web app was funded through the CBCS Small Grants Scheme, as well as some Green Fire Science funds, and built over a few months. The aim is to connect users with information on those threatened species likely found within their electorate, what actions can be done to save them, and to encourage greater communication between constituents and their elected representatives.

The basic idea is that MPs can be a voice for threatened species just like they are for other local issues, whether they be carparks or healthcare. By lending an active voice to threatened species and the constituency, the hope is that more MPs can start to instigate and vote for improved policy and resource allocations for threatened species.

Media pick-up – and the future

The first week of the launch saw Gareth, James and Nick get pick-up on local ABC radios from Esperance (Western Australia) to Hobart (Tasmania), and at home in Brisbane. With a boost from an ABC News article, the website saw 13,000 users over the first few weeks. Threatened species found within Ryan (Qld) and Canberra (ACT) were the most viewed across the web app. While this use and media attention was very welcome, it wasn’t quite the launch the team might have hoped for – which was one full of frontpages and sweeping reforms delivered overnight. Humbled by the experience, the team reminded themselves that engaging broader Australia with species conservation isn’t going to happen with the press of a button (or, in this case, the creation of a pretty web app).

Despite this, Threatened Australians may be useful in helping fill a gap, and it’s a work in progress. Feedback from users has been positive, with the often-heard comment, “I had no idea these threatened species are found near me!”

The team is very keen for feedback and future uses (they can see its utility for things like Threatened Species Day) and welcome engagement. Please reach out to them if you this excites you, and you have ideas around improvements, re-launches and partnerships.

Explore the Threatened Australians web app at www.threatened.org.au

Read more about the theory behind the project in this article in The Conversation.

 

Top: Gareth and James at work on the app in the lead-up to its launch in the first week of May 2022. Photo: UQ News

Project members

Gareth Kindler

PhD student
School of Earth and Environmental Science
Green Fire Science Lab; Maron Lab
HDR Representative – Research
Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science

Professor James Watson

Senior Research Fellow
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences