Update on EchidnaCSI

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This is the best place to ask any questions, post photos and videos and follow the project along!

Wow, what a crazy past couple of months! Welcome to all of the newcomers to EchidnaCSI. Recently, we more than doubled our audience and we're so thrilled to have you all on board. Right now we have over 4000 people participating, we've had more than 2000 submissions of echidna sightings and almost 200 scats sent to us!
Our Facebook page has almost reached 1000 likes - be sure to hit our Like button to keep up to date with us and see lots of adorable photos and videos of echidnas!!

A huge THANK YOU to everyone submitting data, we appreciate it so much.

Below is important news for you.

The Magic of BioCollect

As well as our EchidnaCSI app we have a project page on a site called BioCollect. This site holds hundreds of Citizen Science projects across Australia (so if you want to get involved in more projects check it out). Our BioCollect page is where all of our data goes into and you can also submit data through it too! Whether you can't (or don't want to) use an app, have photos of echidnas already, or want to have a look at the data coming in - BioCollect is the place to go.

Here is what you can do on our BioCollect page:

  1.  Submit photos of echidnas you've already taken
    (Head to Surveys tab > Observation photos of echidnas)
  2.  Submit scats you've collected
    (Head to Surveys tab > Scat sample collection)
  3.  Submit sightings where you couldn't get a photo
    (Head to Surveys tab > Other evidence of echidnas)
  4. Submit photos of echidna burrows or diggings
    (Head to Surveys tab > Other evidence of echidnas)
  5. View all submissions that have come in
    (Head to Data tab)
  6. View a map of where echidnas have been seen so far
    (Head to Data tab > Map)
  7. See relevant news articles and posts about EchidnaCSI
    (Head to Blog tab)
Don't forget the scats!

Reminder of what an echidna scat looks like and how to identify them. Echidna scats are a lot larger than you probably think, they are about the thickness of a 5 or 10 cent coin and can be as long as 15-20cm, although they usually break up into smaller chunks. They have a characteristic cylinder shape and the ends are blunt. They can differ in colour usually because they are full of soil - so depends what sort of environment they're in. Echidna scats are very dry and you can usually see an abundance of insect exoskeletons throughout the scat - hold it in the light and it will sparkle like glitter! If in doubt - send it to us anyhow and we can tell either by looking at it or with a quick genetic test.

Don't forget to log the scat through the app when you find it so we have the GPS location - or log it through BioCollect.

Happy scat hunting!

Puzzle the Puggle - boy or girl?

Last year, the EchidnaCSI team received an unexpected email - a woman from New South Wales was hand-rearing a puggle! We came to learn that someone had dug up the baby echidna in their compost heap before handing it over to the Native Animal Rescue Group. As time went on, we found out more about the puggle - not only about its development, but also adorable details about its personality (it loves snuggling into warm washing!). Eventually, the puggle was named "Puzzle" - a fitting name for an animal belonging to a species about which very little is understood. 

Puzzle’s caretaker was curious about the gender of her spiky tenant. It is very difficult to tell if an echidna is male or female as an adult, and almost impossible as a juvenile. Both males and females share the same physical characteristics like size and hair colour and they have cloacas (like birds and lizards), which means their genitals are stored internally. To solve this, our lab group here at the University of Adelaide have developed a genetic test to determine the sex of echidnas. This requires taking the DNA from the hair of an echidna and targeting a couple of genes on their sex chromosomes to discover their sex.

Puzzle's new mum had always believed the echidna to be male due to its large appetite and "bossy" nature. But after receiving a few of Puzzle’s hairs, we were able to determine that Puzzle is in fact a girl! We have been using this genetic sexing technique routinely for captive echidnas around Australia and it was great to be able to now apply it through the EchidnaCSI project - just another example of how molecular biology can be used to aid wildlife biology.

Puzzle was initially released into the wild on Australia Day, but managed to 'break in' to the house she had been raised in, not seeming to want to be a wild echidna just yet. Now it's been a few months and we wish Puzzle all the luck in the world. See below photos of the adorable Puzzle. 

Here is our growing map of echidna sightings sent in so far!

It has been incredible to see echidna recordings from every State and Territory in Australia (even if it is one lonely record in NT so far). As our project spreads to more people we hope we can start filling in the gaps in the middle and north of Australia. You can help this too by telling as many people as you can about EchidnaCSI and sharing through social media! The more people that know about us, the more data we can collect and the better research we can do. You can keep seeing this map update, or zoom in to take a closer look at the recordings, by heading to our BioCollect page.

                         Cutest photo winners!                     

On Facebook we held a little competition where we asked you to comment the cutest photo you have of an echidna to be shared in our newsletter. Because we couldn't quite choose we have 2! On the left is Patty the puggle, that Caroline Hennessy cares for, who looks very satisfied after having a feed (who can go past this cutie)! And on the right is a photo Claire Duke from Tasmania snapped, we cannot get over its adorable face with a leaf over its nose :D 
Thank you for sharing these great snaps and for everyone who participated!

Keep them coming!

Breeding season is about to begin for echidnas. Between June and September you're more likely to spot an echidna as they become much more active. You may even be lucky enough to spot an 'echidna train' where one female is followed by multiple males trying to mate with her! So make sure you have your phones and cameras ready!

If you have any questions about the project or echidnas please don't hesitate to contact us - either through email or Facebook.

All the best, from EchidnaCSI

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