Status: Completed

Start date: 1 July 2018

Completion date: 30 September 2022

Project code: P01-I-003

Species: Multiple

Download project report (PDF, 2.58 MB)


Australian citizens are increasingly involved in helping monitor exotic species being introduced into Australia, so the project team wanted to bring citizen science together (passive monitoring) with active forms of scientific monitoring (e.g. eDNA tools) to deal with pest surveillance challenges quickly.
This is particularly important because the most common way exotic vertebrates will enter our ecosystems is via pets escaping or being released – whether they are legal or illegal (mostly reptile) pets.
The project team found that:

  • Birdwatching surveillance is far reaching and well beyond urban environments, though failed to detect the common starling incursion in WA.

Key achievements


  • Framework for evaluating citizen science.
  • Cross project case studies with detecting incursions of common starlings and Asian black-spined toads.


  • Greater understanding of citizen sciences role in surveillance of invasive species, its strengths and its gaps.


  • Reduced risk of Asian black-spined toad incursion and establishment, and its associated triple-bottom-line impact costs.
  • Increased scientific knowledge and research capacity.

Project team

Dr Peter Caley

Project Lead | CSIRO

Prof Dianne Gleeson

University of Canberra

Dr Dave Ramsey


Steve Csurhes


A/Prof Phill Cassey

University of Adelaide

Dr John Virtue

Dr Susan Campbell


Project partners

The project received funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

Project updates

February 2021

Increased collaboration with James Cook University and Institut Pertanian Bogor University (IPBU), Indonesia, to optimise the use of the “Toadinator” cane toad traps, testing the response to toad audio lures in order to optimise audio lures for Asian black-spined toads (ABST). At this first stage over 20 audio recordings and morphological measurements of ABST have been taken in Bogor, Indonesia, four Toadinator traps and four additional audio lures have been provided to IPBU and training for use of Raven audio software for call measurement and manipulation.

August 2020

The project has sharpened its focus to serve the needs of jurisdictions by generating alerts based on priority vertebrate species lists. Analysis of community reporting rates indicate a high reporting rate for more easily observed and identified species such as cane toads and starlings, with reporting rates for Red-eared slider turtles much lower. A preliminary algorithm was developed for automated acoustic detection of starlings, and acoustic traps for cane toads (TOADINATOR®), modified for Asian black-spined toads, have been deployed in high risk sites around Brisbane

February 2020

Initial trials of cage traps to attract and catch Asian Black-Spined Toads have been completed in Southern Queensland, with monitoring now being extended to other areas of Queensland. Further monitoring will allow calibration of the trap (e.g. radius of attraction, probability of capture) and is a key step in evaluating trap sensitivity and designing an integrated surveillance system.
The team is working with Australia”s largest repository of community surveillance data, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to develop a process to identify exotic vertebrates of concern within ALA”s data streams. Work is in progress to determine where along the data capture process detections are made and how they should be reported to each jurisdiction involved.

August 2019

A survey of primary industry, conservation and NGO organisations identified high-priority established and non-established vertebrate pests. From this, a list was developed of high-priority vertebrate pests for which acoustic surveillance is considered applicable. Preliminary lists identified 54 priority invasive species, with 28 identified by more than one state as a priority.

A newly-employed data technician will improve data handling procedures and assess data entered into the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) website. Community reporting rates for cane toads, red-eared slider turtles and common starlings to ALA will be assessed. Community reporting lines not captured within the ALA will also be identified and assessed.

Acoustic surveillance units are being procured for the collection of reference calls for Asian black-spined toads and Indian house crows in Singapore. Commercialised acoustic traps for cane toads “Toadinator¬Æ” (Animal Control Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd) have been modified to play Asian black-spined toad audio, eight traps will be deployed in high risk sites around Brisbane. A local community group will be engaged to help deploy and monitor these traps.

Scientific publications & reports

Caley P and Barry S (2023) Effectiveness of citizen surveillance for detecting exotic vertebrates Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.

Caley P and Cassey P (2023) Do we need to mine social media data to detect exotic vertebrate pest introductions? Wildlife Research 50(11), 869-875.

Caley P, Hosack GR and Barry SC (2017) Making inference from wildlife collision data: inferring predator absence from prey strikes PeerJ 5(3014).

Caley P, Welvaert M and Barry SC (2020) Crowd surveillance: estimating citizen science reporting probabilities for insects of biosecurity concern Journal of Pest Science 93, 543-550.