Looking back at the 2014 SADC Citizen Science Network Training Symposium
To measure is to know. If we want to conserve our increasingly scarce water resources we need to first measure its health.
During the first week of September Triwaters team member Franz Fuls attended a three day SADC Citizen Science workshop in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to learn more about the discipline of citizen science, miniSASS, and the power behind the citizen science movement.
For three days delegates from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland and Lesotho came together to share their experiences on mobilising communities to leverage the power of citizen science towards a goal of a sustainable future.
The event was hosted by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, with support from the British High Commission, Department Water and Sanitation and GroundTruth.
High profile decision makers from civil society and government addressed the delegation in what was clearly not just another green-washing exercise, but a deliberate and focused commitment in response to the world’s dwindling resources and climate change.
The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the miniSASS exercise the team conducted under the supervision of experienced scientists in the Ingobongo stream below Shelter Falls. Delegates received first hand advice on how to best conduct miniSASS sampling, empowering them to transfer the skill to others in their own regions. It was refreshing to have the opportunity to sample in a pristine stream, and one of the groups even found a stone-fly – with an observation score of 8.2 this stream was classified as Unmodified (in a natural condition).
Through intensive workshops delegates were exposed to other citizen science tools, like the Turbidity meter that measures water clarity in a stream, and other tools currently under development that will empower citizen scientists who are interested in river streams, wetlands, estuaries, and rainfall.
Anisa Khan from Eco-Schools enlightened the team on taking citizen science to schools through action and enquiry based projects that achieve improved water use efficiency, water quality, access to water, sanitation and sustainability through a seven step framework of whole school development.
Mark Graham of GroundTruth explained the logic behind miniSASS while Bonani Madikizela from the Water Research Commission took us on a journey starting at the birth of miniSASS. Together they took the delegates on a journey that started with the hard science SASS tool, and how it was condensed into a simple yet accurate citizen science tool called miniSASS.
Looking at the motivation behind citizen science, Mike Ward explained to delegates the various methodologies of scientific observation, while elaborating on the great value that citizen science has for formal scientists. It became clear that communities have a very important role to play in the collection of scientific data that is used by scientists in complex models, which then become tools for national and international strategy and policy-making to ensure a sustainable future.
Serving traditional science is only a part of the power of citizen science. Through many of its methods, citizen science can directly empower communities and the individuals who conduct the sampling. Basic analysis of the findings from citizen science can indicate sources of pollution, and to some extent even severity. It can provide a platform that communities can use themselves to improve their immediate environment to their own direct benefit.
By the end of the workshop delegates were empowered to formulate their own workshops to start citizen science projects around river health: who to network with, conducting field work, reporting strategies, action taking and other concepts to create a solid foundation for new projects.
With many other expert speakers also addressing the delegation, it was clear that citizen science, and miniSASS, is bound to become the next big thing in Southern Africa’s conservation drive.
Triwaters Tour is part of this drive, and plans to empower riverside communities along the Vaal and Orange rivers early in 2015, providing communities with tools and techniques that they can use themselves to influence the sustainability of the areas where they live.
Visit the Triwaters Facebook Page for more photos from the workshop.
ABOUT THE TEAM
Troy Glover hails from Wemindji, Canada – Ice Road Truckers country. His spring hobby is to monitor pack-ice forecasts and when conditions are right he launches his ocean kayak into James Bay, dodging ice bergs on multiday expeditions. Troy is a teacher with a B.Sc. in a water related discipline and he is passionate about experiential education, especially with First Nations students. His education and science background with his passion for conservation will be invaluable on this trip.
Franz Fuls is the expedition leader. Based in Ermelo, close to the Source of the Vaal he has witnessed the slow deterioration of the environment along the headwaters of the Vaal River.
Franz is an industrial engineer, freelance investigative journalist and adventure sport fanatic (rock climbing and white water kayaking).
Brett Merchant, a prospector from Adelaide, Australia with adventure in his blood. Brett did a source to sea expedition of the Murray River in Australia in 2013, mostly solo. His experience on this journey of similar length will be very valuable, and Brett will lighten up the trip with his home grown Australian humour and will maintain the balance between conservation and industrial growth needs with his career background.
ABOUT WESSA – OUR PARTNER NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is a South African
environmental organisation which aims to initiate and support high impact environmental
and conservation projects to promote public participation in caring for the Earth.
For almost 90 years WESSA has proactively engaged with the challenges and opportunities
presented by South Africa’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems
that depend on it.
The environmental crisis that we face is directly the result of how humans live on this
planet: this human centred crisis requires a human centred response. WESSA believes
that working towards meaningful and sustainable capacity building solutions together is the
most effective and inclusive way of bringing about the social change required to enable
individuals, communities and government to make more sustainable lifestyle and
environmental management choices.
WESSA is a Section 21 company registered as an Incorporated Association not for gain.
CONTACT OUR TEAM
Canadian Troy Glover. email@example.com . (416) 886 5735
South African Franz Fuls. firstname.lastname@example.org . (+27) 73 861 7532
Australian Brett Merchant. email@example.com . (+61) 08 8370 8170 / (+61) 458 639 423