WOW Project Details

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Wild Orchid Watch is...

a national citizen science project designed to collect, record and share scientific information about Australian native orchids.

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agreed methods

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a resource

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An App

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data collection

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data sharing


Between 2018 and 2020 WOW will create:

  1. Agreed Methods - Establish appropriate methods for orchid data collection and storage using the app and website.

  2. A Resource - Enable a national online community of citizen scientists and professionals to communicate about orchid conservation and ecology.

  3. An App - Develop an app and online tools for citizen scientists to collect and share information on Australian orchids and their habitats.

  4. Data Collection - Guide citizen scientists to collect orchid information and accurately enter data via the app or website.

  5. Data Sharing - Provide data to ecologists and taxonomists to enable research into orchid distribution, abundance, phenology and as indicators of environmental change. All non-sensitive orchid information will be publicly available.

An online platform will incorporate an app, website and database to enable researchers, native orchid enthusiasts and citizen scientists to upload, access and use the data. The app will feature the ability to upload photographs of orchids and prompts to enter habitat information. This information will help researchers relate orchid abundance to other environmental data. A verification process will allow accurate species identification, and mapping functionality will enable users to walk around and identify the perimeter of identified populations.

Citizen science has to make the world a better place
— Dr. Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist

The WOW technology will enable orchid societies to gather, verify, store and share historical sightings with accompanying photographs. Importantly, comprehensive collections of verified orchid photographs will help scientists resolve complex taxonomic questions. Interactive keys and diagnostic features are of particular interest to orchid enthusiasts, and the development of an interactive taxonomic field guide will also be investigated.



Why orchids matter

Australia has the world's most diverse terrestrial orchid flora. Their intriguing life-cycle involves partnerships with mycorrhizal fungi and fascinating pollination strategies such as species-specific insect mimicry. With a variety of sizes and growth forms; flowers ranging from large showy inflorescences to tiny delicate blooms; epiphytic, lithophytic and incredible subterranean habits; it is not surprising that Australian orchids capture the imagination of amateur naturalists and scientists alike. However, many orchid species are threatened. They are highly susceptible to environmental change, are taxonomically complex, and many questions about their taxonomy and ecology remain unanswered. Orchids are often cryptic, population sizes vary seasonally and are widely distributed across Australia. This makes it impossible for researchers alone to gather the necessary information to analyse distribution and abundance and assign conservation status.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. How can you be sure that sensitive information about orchid locations will be protected?

A. Orchid locations will be collected through the app. Location information will be stored securely, and the location of orchids considered sensitive (i.e. threatened/priority/at risk from exploitation) will not be published for public viewing. Precise location details of sensitive species will only be made available to approved individuals such as scientists and land managers, and access will be managed by existing State/Territory agencies. When orchid data is made public, locations of sensitive species will be obscured so only the general location (i.e. 10 km) will be shown, whilst certain species will not appear at all. Read more about how WOW will manage sensitive data.


Q. Will I be acknowledged for photos that i share?

A. Yes, you can select which international copyright license you wish to apply to your photographs.  We are developing two Creative Commons License documents: Policy Statement - Use of Contributed Photographs and Photograph Copyright Information - Options for Contributors.


Q. How can i be part of the WOW community?

A. Please contact us at to register your interest in becoming part of the WOW online community. You will then be kept updated and given opportunities to contribute to this national project.


Q. how can i be involved in testing the app and database?

A. Please contact us at to register your interest in testing the app and database.


Q. how can i share my orchid photos, descriptions and habitat data for the creation of the app?

A. Please contact us at to contribute orchid data for the development of the app and database. Once the online platform has been publicly released, orchid information will be shared via the app and database.


Q. can i share orchid information but remain anonymous?

A. Yes. When you share orchid information with WOW you can control how much of your personal info (if any) is shared with the online community.

WOW Story

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Wild Orchid Watch began with South Australian Citizen Scientists Robert and Rosalie Lawrence. In 2011 they published 'Start with the Leaves' a guide to the orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills, and South Australia's Native Orchids Identification DVD. Rosalie and Robert were inspired to create an Australian orchid identification website; with support from the State Herbarium of South Australian, Australian Orchid Foundation and the Australian orchid enthusiast community they spent 5 years planning the Wild Orchid Watch (WOW) project. In 2017, in conjunction with The University of Adelaide and TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network), Wild Orchid Watch won an Inspiring Australia Science Engagement Programme Grant.


The WOW project will run out of The University of Adelaide from 2018 to 2020. From mid 2018 to the end of 2019, the app and database will be developed. We would love input from orchid societies and enthusiasts, so please contact us if you are interested in beta testing and/or sharing your orchid photos for the development of the app.

In 2020 the WOW app will be publically released, and the online tools will be available for use in the field and office. The data collected will be publically accessible for research, policy and planning purposes, and ultimately will help to resolve conservation and taxonomic questions about Australian orchids.