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There are a few different ways to search by location in the Atlas of Living Australia. The most used is “Explore your Area”, but there are other options, including “Explore regions” and “Spatial search” which you might find useful. 

Searching by location rather than by species can be useful for a few different reasons:

1. Discovering species you might find in your backyard or where you’re going on holiday

2. You can generate a field guide from a location-based search (see our downloads article for saving a field guide). 

3. If you don’t know the name of a species, but you know where you saw it, a spatial search can be a good way to narrow down your options!

Explore your area

The explore your area tool allows you to find which species are recorded in a particular area by searching an address or postcode. To use the tool:

1. Start on the Atlas of Living Australia homepage. 

2. Click on “Search & analyse”, then choose “Explore your area”.

ALA home page showing navigation from Search & analyse to Explore your area

3. Enter an address or postcode into the search bar. You can also alter the radius of the circle from the default 5km down to 1km or up to 10km. On the right, a map will appear with all occurrence records recorded in that area.

The list on the left shows all the species that have been recorded at that location, as well as the number of records. You can download the list of records directly from this page, or a field guide for the area – see downloads for more information. 


screenshot of explore your area page. the search bar is highlighted, as is the radius selection field 

4. If you click on one of the groups in the first column, the map and list change accordingly.

screenshot showing how results will filter to only include the selected group, for example, reptiles

5. Clicking on 'Records' in the header reorders the list – from the highest number of records to the lowest.

screenshot demonstrating a list of species in descending order from most records to least

6. By clicking on the individual occurrences on the map, you will get details for that record, and you can open them to view. 

7. If you click on the stack in the top right corner, you can change the type of map in view.

screenshot indicating the view record button


Explore regions 

Explore regions can be used similarly to “Explore your area” however you can select from a set of defined regions (e.g. local government areas, marine regions) and discover which species have been found in the pre-defined region. 

1. First you’ll need to navigate to the Explore regions page. Either by following the link or scrolling to the footer at the bottom of the home page, you’ll find it in the Search & analyse section:

screenshot showing how to navigate to explore regions using the ALA footer menu. Under Search & analyse, click on Explore regions 

2. Select a region from the list on the left. The list of regions is sorted into categories such as states and territories, local government, and marine parks. Once you have selected the region, you can adjust the opacity of the region's visibility on the map by adjusting the toggle bars below the map. When you’re ready to explore the species in the region you’ve selected, click on the name of the region shown on the map, for the below example this would be Darling River

screenshot of explore regions tool, showing the various region names available 

3. By following the link for Darling River a new page will load. The main functions on this page are:

  • You can explore by species, just like in “Explore your area” 
  • Clicking “View records” will take you to an occurrence record page where you can further filter your results (see refine your search for more details)
  • You can download these records directly from this page (see downloads
  • The “Time controls of Map” has two functions. Firstly, it allows a visual view of records through time. Secondly, if you change the time bracket this will adjust the records on the left – allowing for a quick and visual way to filter by year, without leaving this page.

screenshot pointing out the various functions available, which include view records, download records, and a time control map (viewing records changing over time on the map)


Spatial search 

A spatial search allows you to draw a shape (polygon, rectangle, or circle) on a map and then return all records bounded by those coordinates. To perform a spatial search:

1. Select “search and download records” from the ALA homepage

how to navigate to spatial search. From ALA home page, on thew researchers tab, select search & download records

2. Select the "Spatial search" tab. Choose a shape to draw on the map. Here we’ve chosen a polygon as it’s the most flexible. We’ve zoomed into Batemans-Bay on the South-East Coast of Australia and have drawn a polygon around a beach in the area. 

3. You can then click on the “Search for records in this area.” This will take you to an occurrence record page including all records in that area. 

screenshot showing Spatial search is the last tab on the right

I saw a plant/animal, but I don’t know what it is!

You’re out on a walk and you see a lizard, but you don’t know what it is, how can you use the ALA to find out? If you have a photo of the species, we recommend you record a sighting using the iNaturalist smartphone app. The iNaturalist AI technology and community will help identify the species for you!

If you'd rather try to identify a species yourself, searching by location is a great way to narrow down the options for what you might have seen. All of the above spatial tools can work well for this.

Let’s use the spatial search option. 

1. Create a spatial polygon around a beach. 

2. Click on “Search for records in this area.” 

3. Once you are on the occurrence record page, you can filter your search (see our 'refine your search' help article for more detailed instructions). 

If you know it’s a reptile, then:

4. In the lifeform section of the narrow your results (on the left) select "reptiles" and "include".

This leaves 151 records and only about 16 species, which is much more manageable to look through than the 26,435 animals in the area or all the species of reptiles in a much bigger area!

screenshot showing the refine search filters

From here you can continue to use the filters to look at the common or scientific name, and you may like to go through the images, shown on the "Record images" tab. 

images tab showing a selection of species images

The images shown will only be those recorded in that area. If there is a species in your refined list but no images in this selection, look at its species page (by species), there might be photos from other locations. 

If what you saw isn’t there, consider expanding your geographic search, as you’ll have more chance that someone else will have recorded a sighting. 

There are many ways of doing this, and this is just one option, but it can be a great way to explore the biodiversity of a given area!