Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what you do:
My name is Lucky Okpanachi Atabo. I am a young Nigerian and an active volunteer and advocate for various contemporary societal issues like biodiversity and environmental conservation. I am an undergraduate in Biological Sciences and currently in my final year.
How did you become a citizen scientist? What was the catalyst that got you going?
The term ‘citizen science’ was very much alien to me up until, when as an intern, I was privileged to listen to a scholar present the details of his research on what he titled “Citizen Science and Urban Ecology“. It was right there in that lecture room that I was able to see and comprehend how much good can be achieved from the work that citizen scientists do especially in species conservation. The passion for citizen science was ignited in me from that moment and this was precisely in the year 2019 while I was interning at A.P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, Jos, Plateau State.
What has been the highlight for you?
Being out in the field putting in my effort to achieve the objectives of citizen science has helped to shape how I view and respond to environmental issues. Within this short time, I have come to see that real changes can be made practically and consistently. I began to use my photos and storytelling to drive a message into the minds of people closest to me and then spiralling up to larger audiences. This way, I’ve been able to spread the message of conservation and it gives me so much joy to see a change in the attitude of people towards these issues. Realizing that the people around me are becoming positively conscious of their decisions thrills me intensely.
How has being a citizen scientist changed your view of the world?
Being a citizen scientist has taught me that every decision I make as a person will impact on the world one way or another. Being a citizen scientist has also shown me that with a bit of effort from everyone, we can achieve great changes.
What does the term “citizen scientist” mean to you?
Citizen science to me simply means everyone is needed. No matter who you are (Writer, photographer, physician, journalist, etc.) or where you are, you are important and your hands are needed on deck.
What are you still hoping to achieve? This might be in terms of species, coverage, targets …
Recently, I started the ‘new species everyday’ challenge for myself. Knowing that I have a limited time to spend here on campus, I try to record as many new species as I can within my grid cell. So, I make sure to take a walk around and within the university’s small biological garden to catch any new species flying or walking around. So far I’ve been able to build a good species list including some very interesting sightings. Anywhere else I visit even on very short durations, I try to atlas as many species as I can.
I’m also hoping to help inspire more people with similar passions to join in the work that is needed to cover more ground in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
How do you react to the statement that “Being a citizen scientist is good for my health, both physical and mental!”?
Personally, I consider citizen science as the healthiest way to have fun. My happiest moments are times spent outside either watching birds or photographing these very cute and adorable species. This has improved me a lot physically and mentally. I always say that being out in natural places makes me feel reborn. I really wish more people will plug into this as a means to stay fit and sharp.
What do you see as the role which citizen science plays in biodiversity conservation? What is the link?
You can only go on to protect a species when you’re sure that it is there. I regard citizen scientists as the torch bearers of conservation; we light up the tunnel so everyone can see, and by everyone, I mean the ordinary people as well as powerful stakeholders like government bodies or NGO’s.
What are the challenges you encounter as a citizen scientist?
Being out mostly in wild and isolated places exposes one to certain risks. I always try to use my sixth sense whenever I am out in the field or I make sure I have a good knowledge of any area I plan to visit. This has limited me in terms of data coverage but for now safety is key
The photos that I take are usually taken with my mobile phone and it is pretty challenging and disappointing, especially when there’s an interesting species either moving too fast or at a distance too far for cell phone photography. Hopefully, I’ll save up enough money to buy a good camera and continue to snap it and map it! 🙂