The world’s first continent-scale nature discovery project, Bush Blitz, is being ramped up to broaden the search for Australia’s least known plant and animal species.

Bush Blitz has been extended until 2017 thanks to $12 million in funding from the Australian Government and BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities, with each contributing $6 million.

“To keep our habitats healthy we’ve got to know what species habitats contain and Bush Blitz is helping to fill in those crucial gaps in our knowledge,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment. 

“Since 2010, Bush Blitz has discovered more than 700 new species, including a water-walking wolf spider in the Kimberley and a native truffle in Victoria,” he said. 

“This new funding will send teams of researchers to ‘blitz’ dozens more remote areas throughout Australia, uncovering their hidden biodiversity and discovering hundreds of species that are completely new to science.” 

Bush Blitz is a pioneering partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. 

“The great success of Bush Blitz wouldn’t be possible without all three partners and I thank Earthwatch and BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities for their vision and continued commitment,” Senator Birmingham said.

Expedition teams scour the bush, waterways and even go underground in their quest to deepen scientific knowledge of our unique plants and animals. 

The additional $12 million in funding will expand the research area, enable greater community involvement and increase educational outcomes. This means there will be more ‘Bush Blitz TeachLive’ expeditions, with science teachers engaging with their students while out in the field and greater involvement from BHP Billiton employees as research assistants.

Earthwatch Australia CEO, Professor David McInnes, said the Bush Blitz partnership to discover, document and describe Australia’s unique flora and fauna is providing essential information to help manage and protect some of Australia’s most fragile and precious ecosystems. 

“Bush Blitz surveys have already located more than 350 species listed as threatened, vulnerable or endangered, and more than 700 species of weeds and feral animals,” Professor McInnes said.

“Bush Blitz is a great example of citizen science, where teachers and BHP Billiton employees help world-class scientists to conduct their research in the field. These expeditions are life-changing experiences that transform how participants think about science and biodiversity.”

BHP Billiton’s President, HSE, Marketing & Technology, Mike Henry said the company is committed to supporting initiatives that make a positive contribution to the environment and benefit the broader community.

“This unique partnership brings together BHP Billiton’s commitments to biodiversity, the environment and communities. That’s why we’ve extended our partnership with Bush Blitz by providing funding for the second phase of the program,” Mr Henry said.

“The partnership truly defines what BHP Billiton’s community strategy is about – engagement, inclusiveness and participation,” he said. “This is reflected in the passion and enthusiasm of our employees who volunteer on the expeditions, and then share their knowledge and insight with colleagues in the workplace.”

To highlight the impact of Bush Blitz, Senator Birmingham presented 12-year-old Robert Beeton, from Burnie, Tasmania with a special award for discovering  what is believed to be a new species and genus of racing stripe spider. 

Robert, from the Pakana (pron: Puk-u-[as in ‘hut’]-nar) community of northern Tasmania, made the discovery during his first ever visit to an Indigenous-owned property in the Central Highlands. Robert was given the honour of choosing a name for the spider he found (it is in the process of being described as a new species). He has chosen the name paruwi (pron: pa roo-ey), which means ‘beetle’ in his people’s language and is his community’s nickname for members of the Beeton family.