The Great Australian Platypus Search results are in!

Photo by Doug Gimesy

Photo by Doug Gimesy

The eDNA results of Australia’s largest citizen science project are now available for the public to view.

Over the course of the past year, the Great Australian Platypus Search captured the attention of a wealth of conservationists, ecologists and passionate nature lovers who were eager to volunteer their time to help save one of Australia’s most iconic and distinctive species. In 2021, the Odonata Foundation and key project partner EnviroDNA launched the Great Australian Platypus Search (GAPS), in response to the up-listing of the conservation status of the platypus. Using eDNA technology, this world-first project gathered samples from around 2,000 locations across Victoria, producing spatial data on platypus populations to a scale that has never been achieved before.

Thanks to this research, ecologists were able to deduce that platypuses remain widely distributed throughout Victoria, with more extensive populations in the eastern regions compared to the drier and more modified northern and western areas of the state, where populations appear much more restricted and fragmented. While much of these findings were as expected, a few noteworthy results have piqued the interests of scientists and the broader GAPS team with further research being planned. A positive detection at one site in the Portland Coast is of significant interest as there is very limited records of platypuses in this system and none for more than 15 years. Several other notable detections recorded where platypuses are not expected to occur that warrant further investigation including Tidal River on Wilson’s Promontory, Forge Creek near Paynesville, and Wimmera River near Crowlands where platypuses are thought to have disappeared.

The results have indicated the species is widespread through the East Gippsland, Snowy River, Tambo River, Upper Murray River, Mitchell River, Ovens River, Thompson River, Latrobe River, Goulburn River, South Gippsland, Bunyip River, Yarra River, Moorabool River, Otway Coast, Barwon River. However, platypuses appear to have restricted distributions in the Broken River, Campaspe River, Loddon River, Maribyrnong River, Wimmera-Avon Rivers, Hopkins River and Glenelg River Basins. Critically, this data has filled valuable gaps in the current knowledge of the status of platypuses at a landscape scale, thereby helping to confirm their status in each of Victoria’s major river basins, including many areas where no recent data existed in areas such as East Gippsland.

Engaging over 500 citizen scientists, the GAPS citizen scientist network was made up of volunteers from 32 schools, 10, 14 Traditional Owner groups as well as a wealth of Waterwatch and Estuarywatch groups from across the state. All of this was made possible thanks to the support of over 15 partner organisations, including the likes of the Victorian Government (DELWP), World-Wide Fund for Nature Australia and many generous philanthropists.

Understanding where platypuses were not detected, is just as important as knowing where they were, as this demonstrates the areas, conditions and habitats that they favour and those that they avoid. These findings and the new-found knowledge that they offer have not been seen on such a scale before and will allow for more informed conservation actions to be made by natural resource managers and policy makers to further support platypus populations in Victoria.

To view results, go to the Great Australian Platypus Search website  and join the Facebook group to be part of the greater GAPS community and stay up to date on project news and developments,

The Great Australian Platypus Search has been made possible thanks to the support of our key project partners: World Wild Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF-Australia), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, EnviroDNA, Parks Victoria, Outback Academy Australia, The Ross Trust, Waterwatch Victoria, Capricorn Foundation, 2040, Environment Education Victoria, Planet Warrior Education, Fouress Foundation, PMF Foundation, Carbon Landscapes, Latrobe University.