TEST METHOD: Fauna Survey Methods

First release : 25 November 2006


Assess the Quality, Safety and Environmental risks of each step.


When land use is to be changed, fauna surveys may form part of the process of determining its end use. The following guidelines shall be adhered to when undertaking a fauna survey.


Safety boots and sun protection are mandatory. Wear appropriate clothing and bring wet weather gear.

Ensure you can contact assistance if needed. Carry locational information (maps, GPS etc). Follow the Field Advice and carry appropriate equipment from the Field Equipment List. Ensure drinking water is carried.




Decide what level of survey is required. The following types are described in this instruction: observational survey methods and comprehensive (trapping) survey methods. Some surveys may be a combination of methods from both types of survey. When should I select a comprehensive, rather than an observational, survey method ? Where a decision on land USAGE is being made about land that is in pristine or near-pristine condition, or where records indicate rare species of fauna have been found in the past, select comprehensive (trapping) methods in addition to observational methods. Observational methods alone are useful for providing management information and for developments in urban, peri-urban or heavily impacted lands where rare fauna are less likely to be found..
Obtain a permit to conduct scientific research from NP&WS. If you will be trapping vertebrate species you will also need an ethics committee approval, which may take 6 weeks to obtain. If you are trapping fish or some marine invertebrates, you may need a fishing permit from the Fisheries Branch of PIRSA.    
Preliminary work: Undertake a desktop study of the site, using methods outlined in the "Collecting Biodiversity Information" method.    
Observational survey: Observational methods of survey include the following activities: dawn and dusk bird point counts, dusk bat walks (with or without bat detectors), "scats, tracks and traces"observations for terrestrial vertebrates, "active search" (sometimes called "checklist") or "pollard walk" for insects as well as amphibians, reptiles and intertidal benthic invertebrates, "quadrats along transect" observations (similar to pollard walks, but used for intertidal surveys), audio recording of bat, amphibian and nocturnal bird calls, hair tubes for mammals, the recording of opportunistic sightings, photography and evening spotlighting How do I know I have undertaken sufficient observations? For point counts, active search, recordings etc, make a note of the time you spend observing and the new species recorded, to construct a species accumulation curve. Where a 'pollard walk' is set up, ensure that it passes through all the habitat patches on the site and traverses the landscape perpendicular to the slope at least once. For organisms that are sedentary, one walk may be sufficient. For mobile organisms, determine whether new species are detected on a second walk. If they are, consider further walks.
Comprehensive (trapping) fauna survey: Trapping methods that Delta personnel may undertake include cage and elliott traps for medium and small mammals, dry pitfalls with drift fencing for small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, wet micro-pitfalls for invertebrtes, "sweep netting" and light trapping for insects, insect trapping using tanglefoot bands on trees, sticky cockroach lures and whitefly/aphid traps, active searching for ants and soil invertebrates using leaf litter sieving and soil core sieving, intertidal coring for benthic macroinvertebrates, dip and D-netting for aquatic macroinvertebrates, small traps for fish in salt marshes, wetlands and salt lakes How many traps do I need and how long should I trap for? In South Australia, the Biological Survey of SA has published "Guidelines for Vertebrate Surveys in South Australia." This document is available in the Delta libray, on the main Delta server, and is also maintained online on the DEH website. The manual provides information on the layout of traplines, numbers of specific types of traps per trapline, appropriate numbers of trap nights, OH&S requirements, equipment lists, animal handling and ethics considerations. When trapping vertebrates, use the guidelines outlined in this manual. When sampling intertidal, saltmarsh or saltlake invertebrates, refer to previous studies in the Delta project files for advice on representative sampling. When sampling terrestrial invertebrates, the following advice holds: wet micropitfalls and various sticky lures should be spaced at least 9 per 100 square metres; construct a new species accumulation curve over the trapping period and cease trapping when the curve starts to flatten, or when four days have passed.
Specimen records: Some records must be made in the field. Other determinations may wait until a laboratory is available (vouchered invertebrates, hair samples, scats and remains). Record field determinations on field data sheets, using a soft pencil (ink runs when wet). Sometimes a secondary record (eg a photograph or an audio tape) can be made to be returned to base for further consideration. What records shall I make in the field?

Birds - names, photographs of indeterminate species, audio recordings. Mammals, reptiles and amphibians - names, body weights, body length, tail length, sex (if easily determined), photographs of indeterminate species (as appropriate: overall view, face side on and full face, front and rear feet, head scale pattern, ventral and dorsal views of scales or patterns), audio recordings

Vouchering: Delta personnel normally only voucher invertebrate species. Invertebrates are poorly recorded in Australia and voucher specimens from surveys should be lodged with the Adelaide Museum. Australian vertebrate species are somewhat better known, and so fewer vouchers are required. Vouchering vertebrates requires the use of a prescription drug to euthanase the animal, and no Delta personnel are licenced to use this. What do I do if I trap a vertebrate that should be vouchered (a new species, or a species where a voucher has been requested by the authorities)? In the event of Delta personnel needing to voucher a vertebrate species, they are to endeavour to return the animal alive, to the Adelaide Museum where appropriately licenced staff will euthanase it.

Field identification resources: Bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian field guides for Australian species.

Identification resources back at base: Identification resources are specified in "Identification of flora and fauna".


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