MuseumTerres de l’Ebre
Biodiversity testing in Terres de l’Ebre. An example of voluntary work and citizen science
In recent years there has been an increase certain activities whereby citizens have voluntarily helped researchers to research and develop scientific studies. In some cases, research is even based on participation and it is the citizens themselves who give the information which is then used by researchers for scientific work.
This multifaceted process where citizens and scientists work together helping to improve environmental knowledge is known as citizen science. Although citizen science is not a new phenomenon, as volunteers have helped researchers in the world of ornithology and astronomy for years, it is only recently that participatory or citizen science has gained in strength and the number of participants has noticeably increased. This increase is mostly a consequence of new more widely used technology which has been developed and has made contact between the citizen and researcher much easier.
A good example of citizen science is the Terres de l’Ebre IV Testing of Biodiversity, which in this case is related to photography, and is organized by the Terres de l’Ebre Museum and the Association of Photography and Biodiversity, which took place last July in the Godall mountain range. Previous events have taken place in other outstanding natural areas in Terres de l’Ebre.
Testing is a participatory activity which the Association of Photography and Biodiversity has carried out for years throughout the peninsula, and was created for nature lovers who want to increase our knowledge of the biodiversity around us. The aim of Biodiversity Testing is to improve our knowledge of wildlife by means of photography in those places where testing is carried out. During Testing, participating volunteers discover natural areas in a different way, by taking photographs of living organisms on different routes, which are later classified by experts through the digital Virtual Biodiversity platform.
While walking through the countryside and searching for all kinds of plants and animals to photograph, fans of nature and photography are encouraged to collaborate on the Virtual Biodiversity project, whether by testing or in a personal way, and become aware of the great variety of beings inhabiting our environment. Furthermore, the possibility for an expert to identify these through the images taken means that nature can be discovered and enjoyed in a completely new and different way.
In addition, participants on this project also have the satisfaction of knowing that the information collected with their help will be of use in forming an extensive inventory on biodiversity in the area visited. This information is later given to administrators of natural areas to help them with the protection of wildlife by giving them more knowledge of the fauna and flora present.
Currently, the Virtual Biodiversity platform has 1,300,000 photographs in its database which correspond to almost 18,000 different species, a number which is growing every day as different specialists are able to determine more than 70% of the images uploaded on the web. This fact makes it the largest database of georeferenced images of living things in the world and one of the most important citizen science projects in Europe.
Since 2012 Terres de l’Ebre Museum has been part of the network of Virtual Biodiversity Points which the Association has all over the land. As a BV Point, the Museum processes all information included in the platform regarding the Ebro region. This is the reason why the Museum has an area where visitors can check information on the project as well as visit the web and digital platform. They can also check existing information on Virtual Biodiversity in Terres de l’Ebre, which includes 3,500 species to date, many of which were obtained from different Biodiversity Tests in Terres de l’Ebre, carried out until this very moment.
Lists of species discovered at each of the Tests, which can also be found on the project website, are a very useful instrument for all visitors to any of the many routes which can be followed through the Terres de l’Ebre region where Tests have been done so far. Thus, before creating an itinerary, we can discover many species of living things to be found whilst hiking through the countryside in places like the Godall Mountains, Montsià mountain range or the Ebro Delta.
If you wish to know more about the Virtual Biodiversity citizen science project you can visit the BV Museum point or access the website www.biodiversidadvirtual.org. And if you want any more information on this or any other activity at Terres de l’Ebre Museum visit the website www.museuterresebre.cat or follow our activities on Facebook or Twitter.