Passionate about Nigerian birds and butterflies… BDI interviews citizen scientist Abubakar S. Ringim

Abubakar Surajo Ringim obtained his MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of Dar es Salaam. He is a keen bird atlaser and BioMAPper and he is actively involved with the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project (NiBAP). We met Abubakar at a bird atlas and Virtual Museum workshop at the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Nigeria back in November 2017. APLORI is the only field station dedicated to ornithological research and conservation training in West Africa. The Institute contributes directly to knowledge infrastructure, especially in West African countries, while also providing a unique base from which to set up long-term ecological research projects. APLORI is a key partner in the Nigerian Bird Atlas.

Abubakar Surajo Ringim out in the field

How did you become a citizen scientist? What was the catalyst that got you going?

I became a citizen scientist because of my strong passion for biodiversity conservation. The major catalysts that keep me going is the amazing support that I get from APLORI, especially with the Nigeria Bird Atlas Project in order to achieve bird conservation in Nigeria.

What has been the highlight for you?

Every part of citizen science is cool and amazing for me, but birds and butterflies are definitely my favourite.

How has being a citizen scientist changed your view of the world?

Before starting my citizen science journey, I was engaged locally in collecting data on biodiversity for my own research. But ever since getting involved in citizen science projects my enthusiasm for biodiversity conservation has sky rocketed, mainly because of the Virtual Museum. The Virtual Museum has really opened my eyes to the power of citizen science in mapping the distribution of species for conservation.

The beautiful granite hills that surround APLORI

What does the term “citizen scientist” mean to you?

It means everything to me. It has helped me so much and it has given me a lot of encouragement, skills, knowledge and respect for the natural world.

What are you still hoping to achieve? This might be in terms of species, coverage, targets …

I hope to cover as many grid cells and record as many species as possible. I also hope to make some amazing discoveries through my observations. My main goal is to map the distributions of butterflies in Nigeria.

Vanessula milca buechneri – Lady’s Maid butterfly – LepiMAPped by Abubakar on the Obudu Cattle Ranch near Cross River National Park, Nigeria

What resources have been the most helpful? (And how can they be made better?)

For me, the Virtual Museum is a fantastic resource! It would be nice if the website could be a bit more user friendly/intuitive. This would certainly help in mapping species distribution, awareness raising and species conservation at local or national levels.

How do you react to the statement that “Being a citizen scientist is good for my health, both physical and mental!”?

I totally agree, it has been proven that time spent in nature, e.g. listening to bird songs and looking at plants helps to improve one’s mental health and reduces stress. Bird atlasing and BioMAPping also helps to keep one physically active as you walk countless steps snapping and mapping birds, butterflies, spiders etc.

What do you see as the role which citizen science plays in biodiversity conservation? What is the link?

It plays an absolutely critical role, because in conservation we often have limited time, funds and expertise to provide data on biodiversity. Citizen science is especially important now as we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate globally. Citizen scientist play a vital role in providing scientists with data which can be used in environmental policy and decision-making.

Diplacodes luminans Barbet Percher – OdonataMAPped by Abubakar near Bunkure, Nigeria
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.