One of the greatest challenges for scientists, including citizen scientists, is getting their data into the ‘marketplace’ or into a space where they can be used to inform management, conservation or policy.
The successful collaboration between the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI) and the Freshwater Research Centre (FRC) has enabled the wealth of citizen science data in the Virtual Museum’s (VM) OdonataMAP and FrogMAP databases to be accessible via the Freshwater Biodiversity Information System (FBIS).
FBIS is a powerful, visual, data-rich information system for South African rivers and wetlands, serving over half a million biodiversity records for South Africa (https://freshwaterbiodiversity.org/). By linking with the VM’s OdonataMAP and FrogMAP, these citizen science data are now at the fingertips of freshwater decision-makers, conservation planners, research scientists and environmental consultants.
The project, funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, and hosted by FRC, is led by Prof Les Underhill of the BDI. Les and his colleagues, René Navarro, Megan Loftie-Eaton and Ryan Tippett, promote citizen science by engaging with the citizen science community and encouraging the collection and submission of data to the VM.
In 2021 alone, 18,678 new records were added to OdonataMAP for South Africa. A total of 215 odonate species were recorded, of which 31 fell into Near Threatened, Vulnerable, or Endangered according to the official IUCN Red Listing of Threatened Species criteria.
The BDI has also produced online atlases of dragonflies, damselflies, frogs and toads in South Africa, where each species page includes maps, phenology plots and text. Each species page includes annotated photographs showing the chief identification features of each species, and photographs of their habitat. Here is a screenshot of one species showing the features and a link to the full species page.
The success of OdonataMAP and FrogMAP would not be possible without the tireless efforts of passionate and nature-loving citizen scientists. Their data contributions now have far greater reach through the linking with FBIS, which has successfully mobilised the wealth of citizen science biodiversity data in South Africa.