Journal article

COVID-19 and citizen science: lessons learned from southern Africa

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Publication Details

Author list: Rose S, Suri J, Brooks M, Ryan PG

Publisher: Taylor & Francis: STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles / National Inquiry Services Centre (NISC)

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

Volume number: 91

Issue number: 2

Start page: 188

End page: 191

Total number of pages: 4

ISSN: 0030-6525

eISSN: 1727-947X



The COVID-19 lockdown has had a marked effect on citizen science projects, such as the Southern African Bird Atlas
Project, SABAP2. With their mobility severely constrained, most citizen scientists in South Africa were not able to submit
full protocol lists during the Alert Level 5 lockdown. There was a 70% decline in full protocol list submissions in April
2020, and only 20% of the number of pentads was surveyed, compared with the same period in the previous three years.
The decline in ad hoc lists is also evident, with about a 50% decline in the number of lists submitted and 25% of the usual
number of pentads. The number of citizen scientists submitting ad hoc lists only declined by about 15% in April, compared
with previous years, indicating that volunteers were still eager to contribute to the atlas project, despite the challenging
conditions. The BirdLasser ‘Lockdown Challenge’ further encouraged participation. Although the ability of citizen scientists
to contribute full protocol lists to SABAP2 may have suffered, other projects with a scope more suited to lockdown thrived.
The ‘Lockdown Garden Surveys’ instigated as part of a study of urban bird communities proved extremely successful, with
283 people regularly contributing point counts, many on a daily basis. The overwhelmingly positive response to initiatives
like these indicates that the lockdown may have actually increased people’s desire to participate in citizen science. The
pandemic also has put the spotlight on nature within cities, encouraging people to take a fresh look at their surrounding
greenspaces. The accompanying boom in citizen science and interest in nature is something that must be harnessed going
forward, and we hope this can be sustained despite the harsh economic climate exacerbated by the pandemic.


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Last updated on 2021-14-01 at 17:07