JRS Biodiversity Foundation Announces Eight New Grant Awards

Seattle, Washington – January 13, 2014 – The JRS Biodiversity Foundation is pleased to announce the award of eight new grants, providing over $1,000,000 in funding over two years to increase access to biodiversity information. “We are excited about the continued investment in the projects of these current JRS grantees,” said Dr. Don Doering, Executive Director of JRS Biodiversity Foundation. “We continue to be inspired by the determined and innovative work of these and our other grantees in the arena of conservation and biodiversity informatics.”

Dr. Daniel Masiga, Chair of the JRS Grants Committee, said “Within this group of grantees, the grants address data collection, training of scientists and community training, and access to biodiversity information through online data portals. These grants embody the JRS Biodiversity Foundation’s mission to enhance knowledge and promote the understanding of biological diversity for the benefit and sustainability of life on earth.” With the award of the following grants, JRS reaffirms its mission, and its commitment to supporting biodiversity informatics in developing economies:

Albertine Rift Conservation Society (Kampala, Uganda) – Albertine Rift Data Mobilization, $100,000.

  • One of ARCOS’ core objectives is to promote effective mechanisms for biodiversity information sharing in the Albertine Rift region to guide decision-making. Since 2011, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation has been supporting ARCOS through the project “Albertine Rift Biodiversity Portal – Building competence for biodiversity Information Systems in the Albertine Rift region.” The first phase of this project ended in June 2013 and aimed to build the capacity of a network of professionals in the region through training, equipment, and networking activities, to mobilize biodiversity data, and to create a regional web portal to serve biodiversity data according to global data standards. The objective for the award is to complete the portal and publish current data holdings, publish 20,000 new records from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, publish 20 regional data sets, and to enhance training, training modules, and skills at ARCOS.

CyberTracker Conservation NPC (Cape Town, South Africa) – CyberTracker Software and Website Upgrade, $60,000.

  • CyberTracker Conservation originally developed the CyberTracker software for non-literate Bushmen trackers. More than fifty thousand potential users in 210 countries have since downloaded the free software for national parks, scientific research, citizen science and education. CyberTracker software, which is free, is the most efficient way to gather large quantities of geo-referenced GPS data for field observations. JRS has supported CyberTracker since 2012 to translate the original CyberTracker software to the Android operating system for mobile phones. The goal for this grant award is to continue technical support and marketing for the Android version of CyberTracker, and to enhance the CyberTracker website for product support and marketing.

Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (Guanacaste, Costa Rica) – From the Tropical Forest to You: Applied Biodiversity Informatics, $200,000.

  • The Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (GDFCF) is the supporting NGO for the 165,000 hectares of Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), northwestern Costa Rica. GDFCF’s sole mission is that the biodiversity of ACG (2.4% of world) survives indefinitely, and simultaneously serves as a global model of private‐government decentralized conserved wildland management by resident human resources through its and their integration with society. GDFCF is a technical advisor, coach, and cheerleader to ACG’s entire 150+ member Costa Rican resident staff, with an intense focus on the Parataxonomist Program and the Programa de Educacion Biologica. JRS has supported GDFCF since 2011 to support training, software, hardware and salaries for the parataxonomist program. Some of the objectives for this award include continuing the development of ACG website, continued professional development of parataxonomists, reaching the target of publishing 20,000-40,000 specimen records per year, and conducting a 7-Day international conference for 10 East African protected area managers.

IPÊ: Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (São Paulo, Brazil) – Online Information System for the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, $65,000.

  • This project aims at raising decision makers’ interest in local flora through a combination of information on native vegetation and history of the use of culturally relevant botanical species. During the past two years of JRS support, IPÊ collected and organized information through a database publically available on the web to encourage diversification of species in restoration initiatives and research on understudied species. IPÊ aims to capitalize on the opportunities to use the system by nursery producers, government agents and educators. IPÊ has developed a bioinformatics database of the Atlantic forest biome and incorporated it into local government programs. The new award will be used to increase academic use of the database, make it available for local use for re-vegetation projects, strengthen the institutional network, and improve data publication and access.

Museo Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado (Santa Cruz, Bolivia) – Geospacial Center for Biodiversity, $189,970.

  • Years of national and international research have provided Bolivia with extensive documentation of its biodiversity but limited tools for assimilating, interpreting and disseminating this data. There is also a shortage of digital data and limited access to outputs, particularly for teachers, stakeholders and the public. With important tropical ecosystems in Bolivia and elsewhere under growing pressure, there is an urgent need for new ways to acquire and distribute biodiversity information. With the this funding from JRS, the Noel Kempff Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz is responding to these needs through the creation of the Geospatial Center for Biodiversity. Goals for continued investment in this project include increasing data coverage to the national level in policy support, launching GCB-Paraguay, and organizing workshops in Bolivia and Paraguay.

REBIOMA: Wildlife Conservation Society (Antananarivo, Madagascar) – Using Online Technology to Share High Quality Biodiversity Data and Support Conservation, $120,000.

  • Madagascar is biodiversity data rich, but data access is poor. Biodiversity data is integral to conservation, monitoring, and protected area establishment, but can only be effectively used if data is available, sufficiently accurate, and provided in a manner that takes into account Madagascar’s high rate of species discovery and taxonomic revisions. REBIOMA provides freely accessible high quality data via an online system designed to meet these challenges. Many of this project’s objectives reflect an emphasis on publishing marine biodiversity data and marine conservation planning to support the Government of Madagascar’s efforts to identify new marine protected areas. The objectives for this second phase of JRS funding are to publish 50,000 new records per year – with least 20% reviewed for taxonomic accuracy, to develop new user interface monitoring tools, to implement new national training and workshops, and support national conservation priority initiatives.

Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogota, Colombia) – Plantas de Colombia Online, $170,000.

  • Although the floral diversity of Colombia is among the richest in the world, with around 25,400 species, approximately a quarter of them endemic, there is no comprehensive source of authoritative taxonomic information about Colombian plants. The Natural Science Institute (ICN) at Colombia’s National University has implemented three approaches to fill that gap by bringing all that information together into a single, easy-to-access, image-rich and searchable web resource called Flora de Colombia en Linea (Colombian Flora Online). The project is designed for scientists, teachers, students and policy makers who need access to an authoritative source of taxonomic, geographic, morphological and cultural information about Colombian plants. The focus for this award is to integrate the full Catalogue of Colombia’s 25,400 plant species into the online platform including the name dictionary, incorporate 40,000 new specimens from Páramo and wetland habitats, test and implement automated data retrieval tools and organize workshops on Best Practices in Geo-referencing.

University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa) – Documenting South Africa’s Dung Beetle Biodiversity, $145,000.

  • South Africa is home to over 700 dung beetle species that perform vital ecosystem services including fertilizing and aerating the soil, and allowing water penetration and suppressing fly and livestock parasite populations. On cattle ranches, however, dung beetle populations face the dual threats of habitat loss caused by overgrazing and bush-clearing and the effects of anti-parasitic drugs excreted in dung. Biodiversity scientists, conservation planners and policy makers have been unable to access vital biological and geographical information associated with extensive museum collections of dung beetles. With the JRS grant funded in 2011, scientists from the Scarab Research Group at the University of Pretoria are sorting specimens in South Africa’s three largest museum collections, collating and digitizing the data, and making it available through existing biodiversity data portals such as GBIF. In the next two years, the Scarab Research Group hopes to finish digitization of the data, photos, and maps, conduct two workshops on Insect Biodiversity and Databases, and publish a print atlas of South African dung beetles.

About the JRS Biodiversity Foundation

Founded in 2004, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation focuses upon supporting biodiversity informatics that are used to preserve and to sustainably manage biodiversity, especially in those developing economies where it is most threatened.  Since 2007, the foundation has awarded $10M in grants. For more information contact Don S. Doering, Executive Director at info@jrsbiodiversity.org, (206) 454-7915.