Nurturing Citizen Scientists

Our wetlands form the heart of our water catchments, purifying our valuable water resources that are essential for the survival of all living things. However, these precious ecosystems are under severe threat from urban encroachment, pollution and overutilisation.

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The EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) has a wonderful opportunity to change this through the establishment of green economies within communities. Our programme employs 61 people within six communities in the eThekwini District Municipality to remove alien invasive plants and rehabilitate wetlands habitats which are home to the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. Our people working in the field not only receive a source of income for their work, which is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs Natural Resource Management Project, but they also develop a sense of appreciation for these wonderful wetlands and their fauna and flora through this work. Through continuous exposure, they realise that their water resources are being polluted, and that this is ultimately threatening their livelihoods. They observe the wildlife and appreciate the beauty and value of these plants and animals.

As a means of measuring our teams’ growing sense of interest in their natural surroundings, TAP has turned to social media. We have created a WhatsApp group where our team members can post their pictures of the plants and animals they find. This is empowering a whole new group of people who are able to contribute as Citizen Scientists and we are excited and proud to be a part of this! Importantly, many of our team members realise that we are saving water by removing alien plants from wetland areas. Other feedback from team members includes Tawanda Msomi, based on the Bluff, who said: “It gives me a sense of pride to know that I am doing my bit to help the environment!” Another team member said: “We can’t believe that these plants are dangerous, I mean we have them in our gardens! So we go home now and take them out and we have a poster of the poisonous plants which we show our neighbours so that our children are safe.” This kind of comment is a lovely indication of how the work we do has a ripple effect.

The TAP team is excited to have the opportunity to nurture these Citizen Scientists in an effort to collectively care for our precious natural heritage, contributing to knowledge banks and policing emerging environmental threats.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank the Department of Environmental Affairs, eThekwini Municipality, Rand Merchant Bank and the Disney Foundation for their support.

Cherise Acker, Threatened Amphibian Programme Field Officer
CheriseA@ewt.org.za

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