This week, we’re featuring the projects of the Animal Demography Unit in our “featured conservation” series. In South Africa, and internationally, the ADU is synonymous with citizen science. These days, citizen science projects are taking off all over the place, facilitated by a suite of new technology that makes it so much easier for amateur naturalists to participate en masse to help scientists understand the world around us. But twenty years ago, when the ADU first started collecting data using this approach, it was truly pioneering. This year, the ADU is celebrating their 20th birthday, and as part of the celebrations they are hosting two Digital Biodiversity weeks – this week being the first of those. Prof. Les Underhill, director of the ADU, explains what digital biodiversity week is – and how you can get involved:
“We have a chain of events lined up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADU this year. One of our main focuses is a celebration of the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, totalling some 15 million records. The objective of our “digital biodiversity week” is to give all our citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data as we are able during the week. The winter biodiversity week runs from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 31 July, so it includes two weekends. There will be another in early summer, which will span the actual date of the 20th anniversary. The dates for the summer digital biodiversity week are 29 October to 6 November.
We want to try to involve as many of our existing citizen scientists as possible. We want to recruit new people to our citizen science team. We want to collect as much biodiversity data as possible: so we will try to count the total number of records entering the various databases, and try to determine the total number of different species we record. We want to encourage Team Citizen Science.
We would be delighted if our citizen scientists participated in more than one project, and especially if they participated in one they had not been involved in before. So we want our bird atlasers to participate in VIMMA, the Virtual Museum for Mammals, our bird ringers to take pictures of weavers’ nests for PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, and our CAR counters to give bird atlasing a try, etc. We particularly want to grow awareness and participation in the growing family of virtual museums.
This is also a great opportunity to try to expand the citizen science team. The best way to do this is to invite someone new to join you atlasing, ringing, counting, virtual museuming, and to show them the project protocols – for example, exactly how to go about bird atlasing.
Ultimately, the goal of all the data collection is to have impact on biodiversity conservation. The wealth of data and information contributed by our citizen scientists, collated and curated at the ADU, and analysed by our students and staff and by many other people, has improved biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Our 20-year celebrations honour you, the citizen scientist. Thank you for your on-going support from all of us at the ADU. Together we are making a difference!”
For more about the ADU, and how you can get involved, search their virtual museums, or view some of their many great maps, visit their website. You can also download their projects for viewing in Google Earth.
Click here to see the ADU’s Projects in Google Earth!