Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: LepiMAP in South Africa, eSwatini and Lesotho

LepiMAP is the Atlas of African Lepidoptera. LepiMAP is one of the sections of the Virtual Museum. From September 2020, the project has been hosted jointly by the FitzPatrick Institute and the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI). Project funding is via the BDI.

207,000 records were uploaded through the Virtual Museum website in the decade between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2020. Of these 144,000 (70%) were uploaded in the five-year period 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2020. That is nearly 30,000 records per year over the five year period. 26 countries have 50 or more LepiMAP records.

The total size of the LepiMAP database is 558,000 records; this includes the database of mainly specimen records compiled for the SABCA project (Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment), Virtual Museum records prior to July 2010, and few bulk uploads that go directly into the database. This is one of the largest databases of its kind, globally. Identifications are done by experts, not by democracy.

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season started on Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with LepiMAP on 22 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa, eSwatini and Lesotho

LepiMAP gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the Atlas of African Lepidoptera. In order to participate all you need to do to contribute is to take photos of butterflies and moths. Here is guidance on how to take photographs of butterflies and moths. Upload the photos to the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum. Here is guidance on how to upload photos to the Virtual Museum. Members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the butterfly or moth in the photo. The moths are really difficult!

Below are the LepiMAP species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red. Please make a special effort to submit records to the Virtual Museum during the remainder of the First Citizen Science Week, and may the momentum gained carry you through until the next Citizen Science Week in October.

We will work through the provinces of South Africa in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo. The last two maps are for eSwatini and Lesotho.

LepiMAP coverage in the Eastern Cape on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Free State on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in KwaZulu-Natal on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in Limpopo on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in Gauteng and Mpumalonga on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Northern Cape on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in North-West Province on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Western Cape on 22 September 2020.

LepiMAP on YouTube

Since July, the BDI has been holding Citizen Scientist Hours. LepiMap has featured prominently in several of them. The presentations at these Zoom events become videos on the BDI YouTube channel, and you can watch any that you have missed. On Wednesday 9 September 2020, the seventh Citizen Scientist Hour was entirely devoted to butterflies and LepiMAP. The three presentations can be viewed on the YouTube channel:

  •  Oskar Brattström: Butterflies – Africa’s most exciting animals

  •  Fanie Rautenbach: The great LepiMAP challenge

Fanie’s talk needs to be looked at in conjunction with the blog called Fanie Ratenbach’s Great LepiMAP Challenge 2020/21. In a nutshell, 112 species butterfly recorded in South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini don’t have photos in LepiMAP at all, and 56 species don’t have LepiMAP records in the past five years.

  •  Steve Woodhall: Looking for butterflies

Les Underhill, Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton