Museum App Takes Audiences Into the Wild

01 May 2014

Field Guide to South Australian Fauna app

Download a PDF of the media release.


A new mobile and tablet application launched today by the South Australian Museum offers audiences a digital gateway to the beautiful, beastly and bizarre animals within our State.

The new app, which is today available free of charge for both Apple and Android devices, has been developed in conjunction with museums across Australia, and can be used in urban, bush and coastal environments.

Locals and tourists have access to accurate data, high resolution imagery and quirky sound effects to become better acquainted with more than 800 species of South Australian wildlife. Rather than consult paper guide books or run scattered internet searches, users have access to a rapid, accurate and easy-to-use system that helps them enjoy their experience of exploring South Australian wildlife. Users can discover rare, difficult to access species, and meet deadly predators such as the inland taipan, which has the most toxic venom of any snake tested in the world.

The inland taipan. Photo by Mark Hutchinson, South Australian Museum.

The inland taipan. Photo by Mark Hutchinson, South Australian Museum.

The Field Guide to South Australian Fauna app is part of a national project funded by the Federal Government’s Inspiring Australia Science Communication grants, and led by Museum Victoria. The concept is based on Museum Victoria’s very successful Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, released in 2011, which has been downloaded more than 85,000 times and has a 4.5+ star rating on both the iTunes and Google Play stores. 

Other museums interstate are today launching their versions of the Field Guide app, including the Australian, Queensland and Western Australian Museums.

South Australian Museum Project Manager Alexis Tindall says experts and volunteers have been supplying content for the exciting app since December 2012.

“The South Australian Museum generates an extraordinary amount of expertise, research and knowledge and we’re always looking for new ways to share this with the public. The app is a resource that people can use outside the Museum, which will enrich their knowledge of South Australian biodiversity.

“We’re keen to keep updating this resource, so if a user’s favourite species isn’t included, they should get in touch, and we can see if we can add it. Regular updates will also provide users with a reason to re-visit the field guide over time, as there will be new content to explore.”

The visually enticing content is divided into animal groups such as vertebrates (birds, mammals, fish, snakes, lizards) as well as terrestrial invertebrates (butterflies, beetles, spiders), freshwater and marine invertebrates.

Senior Researcher in Herpetology, Dr Mark Hutchinson, says “this is aimed at people interested in the natural world around them but who are still relative beginners. So we would hope that people already a bit interested will be able to get a lot of new information that will get them on the next steps to finding out more about the animals they see around them.”

The maps and taxonomic information have been sourced from the Atlas of Living Australia, another successful, federally-funded, collaborative initiative which all of the app partners are also involved in.

“Conservation of animal diversity depends on enough people caring about it, and we would hope this app will help in that aim,” said Dr Hutchinson. “For us as information providers it opens up new possibilities, such as multiple illustrations (book-type reference guides can be very expensive), and very easy updates, corrections and editing changes over time so that the guide stays up-to-date.”

Marine Invertebrates Collection Manager, Thierry Laperousaz, says the app offers a vibrant insight into underwater species.

“Unless people are scuba diving or snorkelling they would not see most of the marine invertebrates on the app. So this is a way to show people what is underneath the water when they are at the beach or walking on a jetty. As they are on the beach, they might come across this species washed ashore.

Ascidians. Photo by Thierry Laperousaz, South Australian Museum.

Ascidians. Photo by Thierry Laperousaz, South Australian Museum.

“It looks pretty, colourful, and kind of like a mushroom or a plant. Using the app, people can discover that actually this is an animal – but not just one animal: it is in fact, a colony of minute individuals attached together. They all have a mouth, stomach, and intestine to process the food they ingest and like us each animal have a heart, muscles and a nervous system – these are called sea squirts or ascidians.”

The Field Guide to South Australian Fauna represents the diverse and innovative methods that science can be communicated. The South Australian Museum is enthusiastic to adopt digital means to tell the stories of our researchers and of our collections.

The Inspiring Australia grant for this project has enabled a collaborative approach to the mapping of Australia’s distinctive flora and fauna.

The app, as well as our online resources, exist to encourage public engagement with science.

Museum Branding and Digital Strategy Manager Angie Hua says the app offers “an engaging and interactive experience for our visitors when they can’t be in the building. It is a great example of how the lifelong learning we promote at the Museum doesn’t stop on North Terrace.

“We are always actively working to make our collections and research more accessible. The app showcases our world-class research in a simple but engaging format for users of all ages.”