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The whales are here!

  The whales are here! By Monique Laubscher The season for spectacular whale sightings is upon us! Every year the southern right whales migrate from Antarctica – their icy cold feeding grounds – to the warmer waters off South Africa. The warmer climates off our coastline provide the perfect habitat for breeding, calving and rearing of […]

The importance of Citizen Science

   

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Author: Marthe Sandra Ango

What does citizen science mean?                                            

For centuries, amateurs have participated and contributed to scientific research, mainly in the areas of astronomy and ornithology. Nowadays this practice, named citizen science or crowd-sourcing, is defined as the collaboration of non-specialist volunteers (“amateurs”) in both thinking and data collection for scientific purposes. This practice is different from the traditional help of undergraduate field assistants as it requires scientists and researchers to work with the public. Citizen science projects follow one of three patterns:

  • The initiators of projects are community-based groups and engage with scientists for advice/supervision.
  • Both scientists and amateurs gather for a mutual project. In this case, the pattern closely follows that of the “learned societies” back in the enlightenment era.
  • Scientists need public involvement to conduct a survey.

Citizen science has many benefits. The first benefit observed is to advance the knowledge and understanding of the world. In 1874, the British government funded a citizen project named the Transit of Venus. This project aimed to measure the distance from the Earth to the sun. Thus, citizen science is also a powerful tool for education and conservation purposes. In 1900, the most famous project started, the Christmas Bird Count, as an alternative to bird hunting around the Christmas holidays. Another benefit of this practice is to provide a bridge between science and the public.

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When comunity and science meet, wonders occur

Leo Berninsone is a part-time volunteer with Sea Search and Sousa Project. We asked him to share his testimony on how local communities can help science.

 “You cannot defend what you do not love and you can not love what is not known” 

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I remember reading that quote on the back of a t-shirt when I was fifteen years old. The link between those 3 powerful words (Defend-Love-Know) shocked me at first sight. Somehow, that saying lingered in my thoughts through the years and still remains being one of the cornerstones of my work on conservation of marine mammals. It changed my whole perspective about what conservation was; I used to think that working with endangered species would prevent them from becoming extinct, but I was wrong. Working with  people would do so.

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Tricks to recognize a Heaviside’s dolphin

CHARACTERISTICS  OF A HEAVISIDE’S DOLPHIN

Length adult

A small animal, reaching a maximum body length of only 1.75m. There is little obvious difference in size between the sexes.

Appearance

Heaviside’s dolphin can be readily distinguished by its low, almost triangular dorsal fin.

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Colour

The coloration of Heaviside’s dolphin is unmistakable: largely grey with blackish cape, white trident-shaped ventral patch with finger-shaped marks on both sides of lower rear body.

Dorsal fin

Triangular and pointed, dark.

The dorsal fin has an overall triangular shape, but the leading edge tend to be slightly convex and longer than the trailing edge, which may be slightly concave.

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Head

Cone shaped head with indistinct beak

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Group Size

Typical group size up to 10

Behaviour

Shy and rarely active or boisterous, though sometimes porpoises at high speed.

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Aerial activity and social interactions are more prevalent in the larger groups.  While inshore in the early morning, these dolphins seem to favour areas with high surf activity, where they may spend time riding the waves inshore and leaping out of the back as they break.

Seasonality

Present year round