Citizen scientist – saving the planet one species at a time

Living in a biodiversity haven like Likweti, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that globally we are facing a biodiversity crisis, with countless species teetering on the brink of extinction. In fact, our world is reaching tipping point thanks to climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation and over exploitation of almost every natural resource.

Whose job is it to save the world?
Certainly, it cannot be left up to the politicians alone and while scientists have the passion, commitment and drive they simply don’t have the numbers – until now.

Citizen science is a global trend that is changing the face of conservation and the good news is that there is ample opportunity for every day South African’s to become citizen scientists.

The innovative Virtual Museum designed and developed by the Animal Behavioural Unit of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology provides a platform where everyday citizens can contribute to countless biodiversity projects. Simply by submitting digital photographs along with certain basic information, ordinary citizens are providing South African scientists with the data they need to produce distribution maps confirming a species presence or highlighting areas where efforts need to be focused. This detailed information is vital when it comes to drawing up the realistic management plans needed to conserve countless species on the edge of extinction. What’s more, these virtual museums also act as educational tools, informing and inspiring future generations to place biodiversity higher up in their priorities.

Where can you make a difference?
Do you know your orchids? Have you recently had a dung beetle in your sights? Perhaps you found frogs while fishing at the Likweti dam? Or you can help with the mammal map?

With 18 different citizen science projects hosted on the Virtual Museum alone, there are numerous citizen science projects that could benefit from your involvement including projects run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust EWT, South African National Biodiversity Institute SANBI and Mabula Ground-Hornbill Programme.

So whatever your passion, be it trees, vultures, butterflies, reptiles, mushrooms or fish, grab your camera, download a GPS app onto your phone and get surveying. The beauty of these projects is that you don’t need to be an expert to get involved. The scientists evaluate your photos, so even if you aren’t sure of the species you can still upload your shot and they do the nitty gritty.

Mapping Likweti
Likweti provides the perfect hunting ground for many of the species being mapped, so let’s get snapping! Wouldn’t it be great if between us we could contribute to each of the Virtual Museum maps, ensuring our little slice of South African is on the map!

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