Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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CANCELLED: Using Camera Traps and Citizen Science to Raise Awareness About Critical Biodiversity in the Ituri Province, D.R. Congo
Jargy Kambale Soheranda, Patricia Mergen

Last modified: 2016-12-04


Ituri is a newly created province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This province is rich in both aquatic and land-based plant and animal biodiversity. Rapid overexploitation of this wealth is a real danger, and species are disappearing before they can even be studied, while the number of active researchers on site remains too limited. From the research conducted, not enough has been databased and made publically available, which contributes to the lack of awareness and knowledge on the local species richness and the current threats to the habitats, notably due to the plans of oil exploitation.

Expressions of public awareness and concern about biodiversity can trigger conservation measures by the decision and policy makers. In other such cases, active involvement by the local population, but also foreign stakeholders via Citizen Science approaches have proven very effective, notably setting up crowdsourcing platforms, where the public is asked to identify and annotate species from pictures caught by camera traps placed in strategic places. The annotations and metadata collected by this method represent very valuable information for the scientific community and is quite complementary to classical field observations, as well as being very cost efficient.

The authors would like to illustrate the need for a camera trap and citizen science initiative in the region and seek collaborations. Indeed, such a research project would help enrich the scarcely available data about the local biodiversity. While legislation to protect biodiversity exists on paper, poaching continues and several contracts have been signed with large companies to exploit the oil reserves, which will have an impact on Lake Albert and its surrounding habitats. It is time to place camera traps strategically in the region and to engage the public.

Such camera surveys have not been conducted in the Province yet and would be a very welcome, innovative approach. The captured images would be uploaded on existing crowdsourcing platforms used by the TDWG and GBIF communities and be implemented at the Botanic Garden Meise in the framework of a larger crowdsourcing program. The gathered metadata and data would be rendered in a TDWG-compliant format such as Darwin Core with a sample based extension or in ABCD (Access to Biological Collections Data). The initiative would also be done in collaboration with the TDWG Interest Groups on Imaging and Citizen Science.