WildCounts is made in Aotearoa New Zealand with eyes on the world.

written Jan 8, 2018 (last updated Sep 5, 2021) • by Jon Sullivan • Category: Why count

WildCounts was created and is edited by Jon Sullivan (kia ora). I’m a New Zealand ecologist and avid nature watcher. Since 2003 (before smart phones!), I’ve been refining a personal method for wild counting that let’s me quickly and easily count the wild around me. I started doing it while biking to work, and now I do it wherever I go.

Over the last few years, I’ve been averaging 3,500 observations a week. That’s the equivalent of one and a half observations every minute for a 40-hour work week. It’s the equivalent of one of the top contributors to the annual four-day City Nature Challenge, but done every week. Yet, I still just do it while I’m doing other things, like biking to work or running for exercise. This kind of long-term ecological monitoring is simple and fun to do.

Since I started, I’ve made well over a million observations. These are consistent, geotagged and date-time-stamped counts of all the individuals I see, and hear. That’s of a diverse, predetermined set of species that I’ve chosen to watch. Taken together, they’re revealing the stories of wild nature in my home city and how the wild is changing.

One of my motivations for making the WildCounts website is to share how, and why, I do this. I’d be stoked if other people gave it a go.

I’m based in Aotearoa New Zealand, so there’s a Kiwi flavour to a lot of the wild counts on this site, although I’ve also counted the wild in California and Australia. When I’m not out counting the wild, you can find me at work as an ecologist at Lincoln University, New Zealand, or online at iNaturalist NZ helping others to identify the wild things they find.

I’m always keeping an keen eye on the rest of the world. Please get in touch if you’re keen to help or know of someone counting the wild that should be profiled here. You can reach me via email at [email protected], you can message me on iNaturalist (@jon_sullivan), and I’m on Mastodon at @[email protected].

a map on one week's observations
Here are my wild counts from the week from 16 November 2019. That's bike rides along four routes between my home in Christchurch city (upper right) to Lincoln town where I work (lower left), plus two runs in the Christchurch hills, and a bike into the city centre for a meeting. Each point is one datetime-stamped geotagged distance-sampled observation made on my iPhone. In total, in this one week I made about 6,577 observations. That's "about" because some of the points are still untranscribed audio notes that can contain more than one species observation. (I made more counts this week than usual because it was the week of my monthly long hill ride.)

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