#CitSciDay2018 at Kirstenbosch

Citizen Science Day 2018 was on Saturday 14 April, and the day was dedicated to a Citizen Science Fair in the conference facilities at Kirstenbosch Gardens. I attended most of the talks, and took a stroll around the expo to see what projects are on offer.

The Citizen Science Fair exhibition hall at Kirstenbosch
The Citizen Science Fair exhibition hall at Kirstenbosch

I tweeted throughout the day, and have embedded the tweets starting each of my threads below. Click on the tweet (just in the middle, on the white background) to open it on twitter and see the full thread of everything that was shared, or just click on the links in the text preceding each of the three tweets. I included lots of links, so if you want to get more information on any of the citizen science projects in question, half the legwork has been done for you.

Here’s a thread of what took place before teatime:

Before lunch this is what happened:

And after lunch we heard all this!

Not surprisingly, iNaturalist featured strongly. It’s replaced iSpot, and many of the projects rely on iNaturalist for recording of sightings, and identification. You can create an account for yourself and start contributing to several projects by submitting photographs of what you’ve seen, and tagging them appropriately. Here’s SeaKeys on iNaturalist, and more information on this important project – which is a good place to start as a diver in Cape Town.

Peter & Georgina talking about SeaKeys
Peter & Georgina talking about SeaKeys

We’ve posted before about citizen science opportunities in Cape Town; here’s the info on marine projects, and here is more detail on a few of the terrestrial ones. There’s a LOT going on in this wonderful world, so you can definitely find what interests you!

Newsletter: Seasonal changes

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Staying dry

Both days this weekend have swell, and wind blowing from the wrong direction, and the current dark colour of False Bay means we are definitely staying dry. The weather does look better on Monday and Tuesday for those that have a flexible work schedule – if you’re one such, get in touch.

The Shark Spotters centre at Muizenberg
The Shark Spotters centre at Muizenberg

Binoculars for Shark Spotters

The Shark Spotters team are running a crowd funding campaign to raise money for new, high powered binoculars for the spotters. I can tell you that the right pair of binoculars makes all the difference. Cape Town’s Shark Spotters program is an international model for a beach safety solution that protects both sharks and people. They are very deserving of your support – please consider contributing to the campaign at this link.

Citizen Science Day

I promised to remind you again about the SANBI Citizen Science day, and it’s rolling around this weekend. There’s a full program of short lectures from representatives of various projects on Saturday, free of charge, in the conference venue at Kirstenbosch Gardens. There’s more detail at this facebook event link, and a list of the talks here.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Keep up the good work

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives… which side of the peninsula to be confirmed!

Both Saturday and Sunday have fairly decent weather forecasts. The question will be whether the visibility is better in False Bay or Hout Bay. I will go with diving on Sunday, doing two launches. The first will be for Advanced students, second for Open Water divers. I will decide tomorrow late afternoon where to go. Shout if you’re keen to dive.

Ark Rock
Ark Rock

Water

The WWF’s Wednesday Water File this week is about carrying on our water saving ways, even though the situation for the rest of the year has apparently improved (or, an election looms large). There are some great “dry hygiene” tips to help you to keep under the 50 litres per person per day limit. Read all of them here.

Citizen scientists unite!

Are you interested in how you can contribute to science as an ordinary citizen? We’ve shared some local ideas here and here… And now there’s a Citizen Science Fair taking place at Kirstenbosch on 14-15 April. Here’s a link to the event on facebook. Learn about how you can get involved in adding to scientific knowledge, which enables better conservation management decisions and protection of the biodiversity around us. I’ll remind you again of this event closer to the time.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

Article: Quartz on octopus cities

I’ve just finished reading another book about octopus (yet to be shared here), and the author talks at length about an octopus “city” off the coast of Australia, discovered in 2009 and dubbed Octopolis. Another, similar location, named Octlantis, has since been found, and scientists have recently published their research on these unusual places. Octopus are not social creatures – at least, they were not thought to be until these two locations, where up to 16 octopus live in close quarters and exhibit complex social behaviours, were discovered.

Octopus at Long Beach
Octopus in his hole at Long Beach. The reddish brown is an angry colour.

Team leader, marine biologist Professor David Scheel, believes that…

… octopus behavior probably hasn’t changed in [the last decade]. Rather, humans’ ability to observe the behavior has. Today more divers are in the water with cameras and better technology to quickly communicate findings amongst divers and scientists.

Once again, the potential for citizen scientists to make discoveries of this nature is highlighted.

Read about the discoveries here. This article, from Citylab, has a map of the most recently discovered octopus aggregation site.

Shrimp news from False Bay

The University of Cape Town has announced that a further three new species of shrimp, all spotted close to shore near Millers Point in False Bay, have been described and named. All three belong to the same genus (Heteromysis), and look similar, with pale bodies marked by red spots and stripes. One of these new (to science) species lives inside octopus dens, and another lives inside the shell of certain types of hermit crab. These three shrimps join the stargazer shrimp that was discovered by and named for Guido Zsilavecz, citizen scientist and author of several books on False Bay’s marine wildlife.

Two of the new species were discovered by local film maker Craig Foster, founder of the Sea-Change project about which we read last week. These types of discoveries are very exciting and should be a great inspiration and encouragement to divers and other water users. Time in the water is rewarded. If you can’t identify something, send an email with its photo to SURG. It is possible to make significant contributions to science while holding down an entirely non-scientific day job!

Read all about the new shrimps here.

Newsletter: Winter closing in

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Simons Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.30 (suitable for Open Water divers)

It feels very much as though winter has arrived (minus the rain), mostly in the early mornings. When daytime temperatures rise into the twenties, it’s not totally unpleasant! Sunday is one of those days, and we will launch from Simons Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.30. Both sites will be a maximum depth of 18 metres as I have a bunch of Open Water students to qualify.

Catshark egg case
Catshark egg case

Citizen shark science

We are big fans of citizen science, so it is great to hear about ELMO’s catshark reproduction study, for which they need volunteer divers. Read more, and sign up, here.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!

Newsletter: Copycat weather

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: shore or boat dives, depending where the viz is!

A cold front arrives tonight and will make itself felt until Saturday evening. Sunday will be best for diving. I have student dives to complete; if the inshore conditions are good, we’ll shore dive. If the visibility is only to be found further out, we’ll launch Seahorse. If you’re keen to get wet, let me know and I’ll update you on Saturday afternoon.

Storm clouds
Storm clouds

Keeping out of trouble

There’s lots going on as we sail into spring:

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!

Terrestrial citizen science opportunities in Cape Town

For the sake of completeness, here are a few opportunities for ordinary citizens to contribute to science and conservation in Cape Town in the terrestrial realm. If it’s marine citizen science and conservation you’re after, read this post.

Western leopard toads

Western leopard toad attitude
Western leopard toad attitude

Western leopard toads are gorgeous, endangered palm-sized toads that are found from Rondebosch to Bergvliet to Hout Bay, Sun Valley (hello!) and Glencairn. They are threatened by urbanisation, particularly during their breeding season. On rainy evenings in August they migrate en mass from neighbourhood gardens like ours – where they live quiet lives – to communal breeding ponds. This often entails dangerous road crossings, where hundreds of toads used to become roadkill.

Enter Toad NUTS. I’ve blogged before about the Noordhoek Unpaid Toad Savers project, but in the interim exciting developments have expanded the reach and effectiveness of the program. A mobile app has revolutionised the process of collecting and reporting on toad sightings, enabling rigorous data collection. All sorts of analyses are possible once some good data is obtained.

In terms of direct interventions to reduce toadkill during the breeding season, the most effective one has been a temporary barrier on each side of Noordhoek Main Road is used to capture toads attempting to cross. The barrier is patrolled by volunteers, who then move the toads from one side of the road to the other.

If you live in a Western leopard toad area, contact your local Toad NUTS representative to get involved.

Caracals

Caracal footprints near our home
Caracal footprints near our home

The Urban Caracal Project aims to determine the size of the caracal population on the Cape Peninsula, as well as the threats facing these gorgeous red cats – of which urbanisation and its trappings may be chief. If you don’t know what a caracal (or rooikat) is, ask the google. They are incredibly charismatic creatures.

You can help by reporting caracal sightings, and calling in any caracal roadkill that you see while travelling Cape Town’s roads. You can find contact details for the project on the Urban Caracal Project website, or send them a message on facebook.

Be a marine citizen scientist (slash conservationist) in Cape Town

Here are a few ways for Capetonians to save the ocean. Some through direct action, and others through support for scientific research that enables policy makers and conservationists to make good decisions about which species and habitats need protection.

I’ll update this list as new projects are brought to my attention. If you know of an opportunity for ordinary citizens to make a difference for marine science and/or conservation, let me know and I’ll add it here.

Dolphin species distribution

Sea Search would like to map dolphin distribution with the help of citizen scientists (you), partly in order to anticipate what changes may occur in response to climate change. All you need to do is report dolphin sightings and a bit of supporting information via their facebook profile, twitter handle, or iSpot project page. You can read more about their research project here.

Sevengill cowshark sightings

This cowshark appears to have been tagged
This cowshark appears to have been tagged

The Spot the Sevengill Shark project has a facebook page where you can submit images of broadnose sevengill cowsharks taken in False Bay and surrounds. The unique markings on these sharks enable repeat identification from well-composed images. Information about the sex, general appearance and behaviour of these sharks is also useful. There’s some information about the research project here. This is also a great project to follow (on facebook) to keep up to date with the tagging studies that are currently being done on this population of sharks.

For a more global flavour, you can check out the Sevengill Shark Identification Project. It operates mostly in the San Diego area in the USA, but accepts sevengill cowshark sightings from locations around the world, including from South Africa. Their facebook page recently celebrated the first logged sighting from False Bay.

Great white sharks

If you spot a great white shark – while diving, paddling, swimming or surfing for example – please report it to Shark Spotters! This enables the general public to be alerted if necessary, and also provides valuable data for research about white sharks in False Bay and around the peninsula.

You can either report the sighting via the Shark Spotters website, or you can call or text +27 (0) 78 174 4244. Provide as much information as possible, obviously including the location where you saw the shark, and when. If you have a photo or video, that’s a bonus!

Sharks and rays

The ELMO (South African Elasmobranch Monitoring) project collects reports of elasmobranch (shark and ray) sightings along the South African coastline. For the avid beachcomber, their database includes egg cases. The data collected is available to any interested party for their own projects, and can assist conservationists and politicians to make good decisions in order to protect species that need it.

The ELMO website is full of excellent information, including identification guides for egg cases and elasmobranchs, and a handling guide for live animals (aimed at fishermen, not people who are grabby – don’t be like that). You can submit your sightings online.

You can also find ELMO on facebook and twitter.

iSpot

Upload photographs of the marine species you see to the iSpot, SAJellyWatch, or one of the Avian Demography Unit’s project pages. These observations are a help to researchers tracking species distribution – for example, as part of climate change and invasive species research.

More information can be found here.

 Poaching

If you see marine poaching activity in progress, please call to report it. The phone numbers you will need can be found here.

How you (you!) can make a difference for the environment

Here are some suggestions for things you can do at (or near) home that can have a positive impact on the environment.

Mounds of garbage
Mounds of garbage

 

The first suggestion is the most important!

Be a busybody

Keep tabs on what’s going on in your area. Are there new building projects or developments planned? Community newspapers are an excellent source of information. Attend meetings that give opportunities for public participation, register as an interested and affected party, make objections, write letters to the environmental consultants and your local council representatives. Also, tell your friends and buddies about opportunities to participate as concerned citizens.

Remember that a development doesn’t necessarily need to be in or on the ocean to affect the marine environment. For example, False Bay is where a large amount of the city’s effluent is pumped out. More people means more pressure on the ecosystem. Demand responsible solutions from municipalities and developers.

Keep tabs on proposed amendments to existing laws, and new laws and bylaws. Who is getting permission to do what? Are these decisions well thought out? Is it wise to allow whelk and octopus fisheries to operate in a bay that is visited by large numbers of whales and dolphins?

Hold the government (specifically DAFF and the Department of Environmental Affairs) to account. The environment belongs to all of us, and if it’s being mismanaged, it’s your heritage that’s being squandered.

An excellent example of the concrete results this kind of action by ordinary citizens can have is the recent flip-flop done by the authorities on the proposed diving ban in the Betty’s Bay MPA after many local divers, marshalled by Indigo Scuba and Underwater Africa, registered as interested and affected parties and submitted objections to the proposal.

Banning diving in the area would have essentially left it wide open for poaching. While the local law enforcement can’t and doesn’t do anything to stop illegal harvesting of perlemoen, eyes in the water in the form of recreational divers can at least keep tabs on what’s happening in the reserve.

You can follow the sequence of events by reading these four posts, in order: (1) proposed diving ban, (2) almost immediate initial results after responses from the diving community, (3) a revised proposal, and finally (4) a cautiously promising start to the consultation process (which is by no means finished).

Evangelise, but not like a crazy person

Wear your heart on your sleeve. Let your friends know that conservation issues and protecting the environment are important to you. Don’t be scary and wild-eyed, just be yourself. (If you’re naturally scary and wild-eyed, I can’t help you.)

When you get an opportunity to discuss an environmental issue with someone who doesn’t know or care as much as you do, stick to the facts. Point them to other sources where they can find information to back up what you’re saying, if they are interested. That way, if they want to relay your argument to someone else, they can do so. Raw outrage isn’t necessarily transmissible (and if you’re too hot under the collar, they may just think you’re a lunatic).

Don’t use jargon. Don’t use cliches (people are smarter than you think). Don’t assume that everyone knows as much as you do about your pet issue – check that you’re pitching your pitch appropriately. Don’t be boring. Show people how beautiful and wonderful and intricate the environment is.

Reef life at Roman Rock
Reef life at Roman Rock

Get your hands dirty

Participate in beach cleanups and underwater cleanups. If you see garbage on a dive (and nothing has taken it for a home), stuff it into your BCD for disposal on land. Get into the habit of picking up stuff that doesn’t belong. Keep an empty bag on the boat for collecting rubbish as you drive in and out of the harbour. Hout Bay is an excellent spot for this. Most harbours are actually filthy.

Consume less of everything

Reduce your carbon footprint. This encompasses all the obvious things: recycle, buy local, seasonal produce, eat less meat, and participate in more recreational activities that are carbon neutral. (Unfortunately diving isn’t technically one of those; even if you do a shore dive, you still need to get your cylinder filled using a compressor that consumes energy.)

Here’s a good carbon footprint calculator that’ll help you identify the areas of your lifestyle that are having the greatest negative impact on the environment. Mine is my commute to work, which produces a horrific amount of carbon dioxide each month. (If I ever needed a justification for running away to sea with Tony and the cats, this is it.)

If you eat seafood, make wise choices that are kind to the ocean. If you fish for fun, follow the regulations defining what and how much you’re allowed to catch.

Donate responsibly

If you have financial resources and want to make a donation to a conservation organisation, first do your research.

  • What will the money be spent on?
  • What is the track record of the organisation? What projects have they worked on already?
  • Do you agree with their aims, objectives and methods? (Would you be proud to have your name associated with their work?)
  • Will the money be spent on branding and advertising (some people mistake this for real action), or on observable projects that will have a direct impact on an environmental issue that’s important to you?

Remember that addressing an environmental problem may very well involve work with people. Sustainable Seas Trust (not an endorsement, just an example) addresses poverty and food security as a way to relieve pressure on the ocean’s scarce resources, thus caring for people and the sea at the same time. It’s great to take kids snorkeling, but after a while (and a lot of kids) I hope funders can demand a bit more originality and effort in that area.

Personally, I prefer to support organisations that follow scientific advice or include a research component in their activities, because I feel that conservation that isn’t based on scientific data is just marketing… But you may feel otherwise.

If your donation is a significant one, ask for feedback on how it was spent.

Don’t fool yourself

Finally, remember that writing tweets and sharing pictures on facebook doesn’t achieve anything concrete (ok here’s an exception), even though your rate of hashtagging may make you feel like your efforts are putting Greenpeace to shame. Sorry kids. Even Shonda Rhimes says so.

Want to target your tweeting for good? I suggest subscribing to Upwell’s Tide Report.

How do you make a difference for the environment? Would love to hear your suggestions.