Australia is uniquely exposed to the challenges of climate change and loss of cultural heritage. Bushtales is a novel app that leverages open-source data from the archives to provide a synergistic approach to tackling these problems. Our app contains three vital elements that work to implement current environmental and heritage information effectively, close the present gaps in our knowledge, and connect individuals to the significance of the natural world.
Embedding culture in the conservation conversation:
Through the placement of QR codes in biological and cultural sites, users are invited to photograph Australia’s unique flora and fauna. Bushtales then retrieves open-source information about the species from archives such as the SEED Environmental Data. This information is used to identify the organism. Our app then has the unique feature of accessing information on the cultural significance of these species within traditional communities from resources such as New South Wales Heritage Inventory Database. This information is presented to the user, placing our wildlife back at the heart of Australia’s rich cultural heritage. By linking the biological information to the social significance, app users gain a detailed, holistic insight into the necessity of conservation and stewardship.
Enhancing ecological information:
The map feature empowers users to find where similar species have been observed, enabling them to see where particular species of interest can be found. The benefits of this extend beyond each individual citizen. Geotagged nformation of observations are fed back to the data sources. Through this two-way communication, Bushtales leverages the power and scale of citizen scientists and historians to elevate our understanding of the distribution of organisms. This is essential for the continuous monitoring and safeguarding of culturally significant species. Bushtales is therefore a critical tool for amateurs and analysists alike.
Designing long-term, effective interventions to protect our heritage requires collaboration between individuals, communities, and policy makers. Bushtales is at the vanguard of this endeavor. Within the app is a community page which allows users to submit their own stories about the wildlife they have observed. Following moderation, other users can access and read about the significance of species in the lives of their fellow citizens. This connects individuals across social and geographical barriers, grounding the impact of culture in our every day lives. Through the publication of such stories, hitherto unheard voices are empowered. Policy makers have access to the social, cultural, and scientific data obtained through the app, providing a precious resource for designing accurate and inclusive conservation strategies.
Bushtales is a synergistic approach to tackling the seemingly disparate challenges to culture and the environment. By exposing the intrinsic connection between these two areas under threat, our app provides the motivation, data, and public engagement necessary to design more powerful policy prescriptions. While many jurisdictions lack data, and others fail to utilize information effectively, Bushtales presents an opportunity to both implement and augment our Australia’s ecological and anthropological expertise. As a data-driven, community-led project, the Bushtales app constitutes a vital part of a modern and effective conservation toolkit.