Viva Virtual Museum! Let’s get BioMAPping…

Welcome to the ADU Virtual Museum

What is the Virtual Museum? When people hear the word “museum” they often think of a building filled with dusty display cases and stuffed animals. But, the Virtual Museum (VM) is not gathering dust. Our “specimens”, photographic records of Africa’s biodiversity, are being used to make a difference for nature conservation in Africa. The VM provides the platform for citizen scientists (members of the public), aka BioMAPpers, to contribute to biodiversity mapping projects. We cannot conserve Africa’s wonderful biodiversity effectively if we don’t know where species occur. Up to date distribution maps are key for species conservation. The realm of biodiversity conservation is no longer only the responsibility of professional scientists and game rangers; everybody has their part to play in conservation. It is up to all of us to make a difference, the future of Africa’s wildlife and natural ecosystems are in our hands. So what can you do to help? You can snap it and map it!

I encourage all of you to submit your photographs of the awesome critters that you find out there on your adventures, to the various projects in the VM (e.g. MammalMAP, which is the Atlas of African Mammals), along with the locality information and the date. You can try and identify the critter that you photographed, but this is not essential, because the species identifications are confirmed by a panel of experts for each project. Within each VM project there are distribution maps and species lists freely available online, and these also serve as conservation and education tools. These maps and species lists include VM records as well as other distributional records contained within the Animal Demography Unit’s databases (e.g. historical records, museum collections, bulk data uploads, records from private collections, and expert confirmed sightings records). The data from the VM has been used in the Red Listing and Atlas of mammals, butterflies, reptiles, and frogs of southern Africa. This is data that is making a difference.

Over 5000 pages of valuable information has been gathered by BioMAPpers and used for species conservation
Some FrogMAP record examples of the Family Bufonidae

VM records help expand the distribution databases and information for these various taxa (mammals, reptiles, butterflies/moths, dragonflies, mushrooms, lacewings, spiders, scorpions etc.); they not only confirm the presence of a species at a particular point in time, but they also provide new distribution records for species and sometimes lead to extensions of the known range of a species. By uploading your photos to the VM you can make a difference for biodiversity conservation. Instead of having your photos sit on your computer gathering digital dust they can form part of a valuable database of biodiversity. Let’s take responsibility for biodiversity conservation, let’s snap it and map it! If you have any questions about how to submit your photos to the VM please don’t hesitate to contact us. Happy mapping!

The projects in the Virtual Museum
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.