By Ismail Ebrahim
This year the South African Citizen Science network joined the international community by celebrating International Citizen Science Day. The initiative is presented by SciStarter and the Citizen Science Association. South Africa is fortunate to have a great network of citizen science initiatives so it was time for us to showcase the amazing projects happening in South Africa. We launched a social media campaign on Facebook and all the partner organisation websites and blogs. In addition SANBI hosted a Citizen Science Fair at the Old Mutual Conference Centre, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on 14 April.
A range of partners attended the day to showcase their respective projects and exciting events included a Transcribathon, which was an activity designed to engage visitors to digitise herbarium labels from specimens that have been scanned for the Karoo Biogaps Project. A number of SANBI projects that involve Citizen Scientists were present on the day, including: the CREW programme, SAFARIS, iNaturalist and the Biological Invasions team.
An array of partner organisations working on various organisms (including birds, plants, reptiles, spiders, insects and marine animals) came to showcase their work and to give prospective citizen scientists an idea of how they can contribute of our knowledge of biodiversity and assisting in conservation programmes.
The Citizen Science fair also featured a series of talks from the projects showcased. In total 13 projects presented their work and this was a fantastic way to show the value of the work that is being done by citizen scientists in South Africa.
People were able to meet project organisers and find out more about activities that are planned and what is required for each project. There were also some amazing live displays and activities, the most popular of which were the tarantula spiders brought by Norman Larsson. Another interesting display was from the Centre of Astronomical Heritage who set up a specialized telescope in the courtyard to view the sun.
The CREW team offered a fieldtrip on Sunday 15 April to the Silvermine Nature Reserve, and several budding citizen scientists joined us for a walk to look at some of the amazing plants found in the reserve. The highlight was seeing Wisenia maura in flower, as this is a very unusual member of the Iridaceae family. The citizen scientists learnt about threatened plant monitoring and posting observations on the iNaturalist interactive website.
After the resounding excitement and support we received for the Citizen Science Fair, we hope to expand the celebration of citizen scientists nationally and hopefully stage a few exhibitions across the country. Interested partners and sponsors can contact Ismail Ebrahim for more information.
Citizen scientists are making extremely valuable contributions to science and conservation. There are a number of ways that citizen scientists can support SANBI in the implementation of our mandate. This allows members of the public to positively contribute to the protection and appreciation of our wonderful natural heritage.
Prospective citizen scientists can join one of these important SANBI projects
Dr Dorette Du Plessis, the coordinator of the Limbovane Outreach Project presenting her work
Interacting with spiders was really popular on the day
CREW with volunteers at the Silvermine Nature Reserve