Do lots of Citizen Science in 2019

15 Citizen Science ideas for 2019

  1. Keep your favourite camera handy! Grab all the opportunities which present themselves to take photos for the Virtual Museum.

    My camera was on my lap when I drove past this holiday house in Bettys Bay. This baboon was on the roof, snacking the red lentils it had found inside. This observation is curated at
  2. Don’t be shy to post a bad picture to the Virtual Museum. As long as we can work out what species it is, it counts as a record.
  3. Don’t hesitate to post a picture of something which you don’t know what it is called – that’s why we have experts helping us.
  4. Embrace the reality that contributing to the Virtual Museum is not only for serious photographers or scientifically-minded people, but for the ordinary everyday person too. Everyone can play an important role in citizen science projects.
  5. Remember that even your backyard and the places where you work contain interesting records. So do shopping malls and airports.

    This Speckled Pigeon was inside the departure lounge at Addis Ababa airport. This cell phone photo became record 46416 in BirdPix! (
  6. Grab the opportunities that travel offers, whether you are going on holiday or on business.
  7. If you think of yourself as only an occasional photographer, post the handful of photos which you have. They are important records and may fill serious gaps in distribution maps, in developing our knowledge of where species are found.
  8. Hope that you discover a new species.

    This is a probably a new species of lacewing in the family Mantispidae! Zenobia van Dyk took the photo near Clanwilliam and uploaded it to LacewingMAP. Mervyn Mansell, who does the IDs, commented: “This is probably an undescribed species, so it is not possible it identify it further at this stage. Mantispids have a unique biology in that the larvae are parasitic on spider’s egg sacs where they feed on eggs and spiderlings. The eggs, laid in large batches, hatch into a triungulin larvae that seeks out a spider and is carried back to the nest. Once in the nest, the larva undergoes a hypermetamorphosis and cannot move elsewhere. Pupation takes place in a silken cocoon in the nest. Mantispidae are fairly rare in the Western Cape.” Wow. See
  9. Make citizen science an activity for the whole family, young and old. Each member, with their varying interests, can be involved. And fun too. Take pictures on your hikes, picnics, a stroll on the beach. Everywhere you go, look carefully, there are important nuggets of information which can be submitted to citizen science projects.
  10. Introduce someone to citizen science, by taking them with you, and showing them how easy it is to become a citizen scientist and to make a real contribution to biodiversity conservation. Recruit them and coach them into becoming active particpants in the Virtual Museum.
  11. Become an “Ambassador for Biodiversity” – talk to people about citizen science projects and how important they are for understanding the current distributions of species.
  12. If you see an interesting observation relating to biodiversity, please write it up for Biodiversity Observations (
  13. Be a BioMAPper! Expand your horizons from being only a LepiMAPper or MammalMAPper or OdonataMAPper!
  14. Think of yourself as a PHunter, a photographic hunter.
  15. Work your way through your old photos, and upload all those that you think are interesting or important records to the Virtual Museum.

    John Paterson took this photo of a lion in 1985. He uploaded it to the MammalMAP section of the Virtual Museum in 2018! He writes in the comments section: “Unusual record of lion foraging on a dead whale. To my knowledge only record of this behaviour.” He observed this in the Skeleton Coast Park. This remarkable incident is now recorded for posterity! See The whale is a separate record in MammalMAP: It is a Southern Long-finned Pilot Whale.
Les Underhill
Les Underhill
Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics. He was awarded his PhD in abstract multivariate analyses in 1973 at UCT and what he likes to say about his PhD is that he solved a problem that no one has ever had. He soon grasped that this was not the field to which he wanted to devote his life, so he retrained himself as an applied statistician, solving real-world problems.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Les. Talk about ignorant – I hadn’t realised mantids were part of the lacewing family !

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