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Citizen Science

What is Citizen Science? There are long scientific explanations of Citizen Science, but Wikipedia defines it as “public participation in scientific research.”  Citizen Science has recently gained momentum because of the opportunities offered by digital and wireless technologies. However scientists and members of the public have long worked together to further scientific discovery. If you’d like to be involved with any of these projects in the Whau River Catchment we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line on 09) 627 3372 or send an email to


History of Science

Long before digital technologies were available Citizen Science was practiced by Sir Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin, who made drawings of their observations.

Citizen Science Projects in New Zealand

iNaturalist NZ (Naturewatch NZ) is a New Zealand wide online community enabling citizens to upload their own plant and animals observations, meet other nature watchers and learn about the natural world.

Click here to view observations from all over New Zealand and learn more about our special fauna and flora. Check out the latest sightings and observations such as this Leopard Seal spotted basking on the Te Atatu Boat Club ramp, right on the Whau river in February 2016.

Join up to record your own observations of what’s in your backyard or local reserve. You can also take NatureWatch NZ with you, with the free iNaturalist mobile App. available from the Apple App. Store or on Android from Google Play.

Seal in distress. Save the seals
Monarch Butterfly
Marine Metre Squared

Once you’ve joined up, check out our Whau River Project page to find out what special fauna and flora have been observed around the Whau River catchment.

For more tips about using iNaturalist- check out our Citizen Science Workshops page.

The Big Backyard Butterfly Count is a Citizen Science project to raise awareness of New Zealand’s native butterflies and day-flying moths, their numbers and spread. The Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust hopes everyone will participate by counting the species they see in their garden for just one hour on one day between 10th and 30th November.

Butterfly counts are regular events in Britain, Europe and North America helping scientists to learn about what’s happening to our Lepidoptera. The Lepidoptera have, over millions of years, evolved a wide range of wing patterns and coloration ranging from drab to brightly coloured and complex-patterned butterflies. Butterflies and moths play an important role in the natural ecosystem as pollinators for many of our strong scented and nectar rich natives such as Koromiko, Puawhananga (native clematis), Makomako, Karaka, Astelia and Korokio.

Vote for your favourite New Zealand plant on the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s annual survey. Find out why New Zealanders love their native plants and help raise a greater awareness of native plants. This year you can also vote for your worst weed and can tell us what you think about your least favourite exotic pest plant. Search for a species and click on Vote. Each person is allowed one vote in each category. See what others have to say about their favourite plants and worst weeds too. You may like to vote for the beautiful Whau tree Entelea arborescens as your favourite native. Whau were once common on the Whau River catchment, but now they are hard to find. The WRCT along with Friends of the Whau are doing their best to restore this plant to the catchment through our restoration projects.

Marine Metre Squared

Marine Metre Squared (Mm2) is a citizen science initiative where volunteers, communities or individuals monitor the living things (plants and animals) that live between the tides around New Zealand, generating biodiversity data for scientists to analyse.

Whau River Citizen Science Workshop
Whau flower

Participation is easy – simply mark out a 1m by 1m square patch of your local seashore, record the plants and animals you find and upload your results to the website. A fantastic range of free resources are available plus check out this short video.

Some projects are carried out on an annual basis such as the Annual Garden Bird Survey, a citizen science project established to monitor the population trends of common garden birds in New Zealand. It attempts to answer the question, “Are garden bird populations increasing, decreasing, or remaining stable?” The annual garden bird survey could act as an early-warning system if currently common native species start declining.

The survey is run for one week in the middle of the year and involves you sitting in your garden for an hour and recording the birds you see during that time.  Identification sheets are supplied. You then upload your observations online or by mail/fax if preferred.

Bird Survey
Kereru bird

The Auckland Kereru Project is an ongoing projectto follow the movements and diets of our urban kererū (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) or New Zealand pigeon around our fragmented urban landscapes. As they swallow fruits whole and pass the seeds intacted they play an important role in forests as seed dispersers, especially for tree species with large fruits.

The project is looking for more volunteers so do get involved.

The Great Kererū Count is an annual survey and is the largest national citizen science project gathering information on the abundance and distribution of the New Zealand pigeon or kererū. The  2018 survey  runs between 16th-25th September and observations can be uploaded on your computer, iPad or phone.

Kereru bird

Kererū are the gardeners of our skies and the guardians of our forest; they are the only bird left in New Zealand that are able to swallow and disperse the seeds from our largest native trees such as tawa, taraire, pūriri and matai. Kererū can live for 21+ years and are essential for native bush regeneration. Their disappearance would be a disaster for our native forests.

The Wai NZ initiative was inspired by the documentary River Dog. WaiNZ is a national grassroots organisation working with Victoria University to reduce freshwater pollution by using technology to empower the public to be kaitiaki (the guardians) of our waterways. You can share photos of a river or stream near you either online or by phone and report any pollution you may have seen, or share the beauty of a waterway near you. Check out the detergent pollution at a stormwater outfall pipe into the Whau Stream in New Lynn and the Whau estuary.

WaiCare have long been working with citizens for healthy streams, as healthy catchments mean healthy communities. Wai Care is a water quality monitoring, education and action programme for community groups, individuals, businesses and schools across the Auckland region.

Check out the website for heaps of valuable information on what lives in our streams, how pollution can impact on our stream life, and how you actively care for a stream near you.

NZ Native eels. WaiNZ
Citizen Science

“An inventory-of-citizen-science in New Zealand” is an online snapshot of citizen science activities currently underway in New Zealand. Prepared by Monica Peters for NZ Landcare Trust, the Inventory highlights the scope and nature of Citizen Science activities, resources and learning opportunities available.

Check out our Te Whau Citizen Science Programme  


There are many other Citizen Science projects we’d like to share with you so keep an eye on this page.

If you or your school are involved in a local Citizen Science Project please get in touch with  and let us know what you have been doing.

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