A biodiversity audit is a great place to start learning about the plants and animals on school grounds as it is really a foundation for many other activities, and so leads to a lot of knowledge building. The process is to start a catalog of all the animals and plants that use the school ground. This involves building an understanding of the classification system and the ways we identify different species.
What you need
The "tools" you need for a biodiversity audit can be as basic or fancy as you like or can afford or access.
- Something to spot plants and animals.
For plants and plenty of animals simply eyes will do! However binoculars and/ or cameras can be helpful for getting a good look at cryptic, fast or cautious animals. Remote sensor cameras can also be helpful for spotting especially shy or nocturnal animals - you just never know what you might find!
It should always be remembered that even if you don't see and animal, you might be able to see evidence of its presence or behavior. Animals of course leave tracks and scats but can also leave evidence of diggings, be it for food, shelter or nesting, and their nests. Bird nests in particular tend to be very unique to species or at least families, and so can be used to identify species nesting on the grounds.
- Ways of identifying plants and animals
Plant and animal identification books, apps and websites can help to identify your resident species, though they can be a bit of an information overload. Northern Territory, Top End or town/city specific resources can make identification much easier by narrowing down your potential options to animals and native plants that naturally occur in your area, or exotic plant species that survive in your climate and habitat.
There are also many groups that can offer their services in plant and animal identification. Top End Native Plant Society are local group, as their name implies, and they come out to properties and identify plant species on your grounds. This could easily be such a fun activity for students to have a walk around the grounds with an expert and label plant species. BiodiversityWatch can also come out to schools and provide a similar service for identifying animals, and photographs of animals can also be emailed in for identification.