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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Linking 'citizen scientists' to professionals in ecological research, examples from Namibia and South Africa

Published source details

Araya Y.N., Schmiedel U. & von Witt C. (2009) Linking 'citizen scientists' to professionals in ecological research, examples from Namibia and South Africa. Conservation Evidence, 6, 11-17

Summary

The use of trained members of the public ('citizen scientists') to help monitor and collect data in science-driven environmental research projects is not a new concept e.g. the Cornell bird program, USA, has been 'partnering' with the public since the 1960s (University of Cornell 2008). However, this concept has yet to find much following in developing countries where often the greatest need for conservation lies. We examine the effectiveness of citizen scientists ('plant custodians', 'paraecologists' and 'eco-club volunteers') in monitoring (e.g. species rediscovery, red list classification, range extension) and how it integrates with ecological research (e.g. ethnobotany, livestock census), citing examples from three biodiversity hotspots in Southern Africa (Namibia and South Africa). Information collected by custodians has helped to prioritise plant species that are in need of conservation attention. Paraecologists have played a key role in supporting the fieldwork of researchers. Various eco-club activities have been undertaken with schools, and a network of eco-club volunteers has been developed.