Spot whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef without leaving your loungeroom with a new virtual expedition on the Atlas of Living Australia Biodiversity Volunteer Portal.

The expedition enables participants to get involved in whale shark conservation by transcribing the daily reports of spotter planes over Ningaloo Reef.

The virtual expedition is one of a number on the Biodiversity Volunteer Portal which was developed by the Atlas of Living Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Museum, to harness the power of online volunteers.

Team Lead of the Volunteer Portal, Paul Flemons, said volunteers – or ‘citizen scientists’ – taking part in this latest expedition will help provide critical information on this vulnerable species.

“ECOCEAN, a scientific charitable group dedicated to whale shark conservation, have provided the daily spotter plane records that we are asking volunteers to transcribe,” he said.

“Having these records digitised and available in an online database means scientists, conservation agencies and government departments across the country can work together to help conserve this gentle giant.”

Volunteers can take part in this, and other virtual expeditions, by simply logging onto the Volunteer Portal and registering their details.

Mr Flemons said more than 200 volunteer transcribers have signed up already but more are needed to take part in the growing number of virtual expeditions and digitisation projects available on the site.

“We are working with other Australian museums, as well as some leading overseas institutions, to create virtual expeditions that engage volunteers who are passionate about natural history and willing to dedicate a little of their time to helping to preserve it” he said.

Mr Flemons said the volunteers are vital for helping to capture the wealth of information hidden in natural history collections, field notebooks and survey sheets not only in Australia but around the world.

“The transcribed information will be used for better understanding, managing and conserving our precious biodiversity.”

Visit the Biodiversity Volunteer Portal to take part in the project.

Visit ECOCEAN to look for whale sharks beyond the loungeroom.