Aaliyah Motala – South African National Biodiversity Institute
One of the most important aspects of science is communication. The best way to get messages out to the public is to include them in the process of acquiring information. With the advent of technology, the internet and especially mobile phones, it has become much easier to include citizen scientists in scientific research and contributions to information gathering and projects. iNaturalist provides such a tool; it is an internet-based medium in which scientists, nature enthusiasts and citizen scientists can interact, and share information and knowledge about biodiversity. It is essentially a social media platform where people can map and share observations, photographically, of flora, fauna, fungi, nests, tracks, etc. Biodiversity research is entering uncharted territory with more conservationists, biologists and biodiversity policymakers utilising such platforms as a data source to inform decision-making with regards to monitoring and reporting, e.g. South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA) and IUCN Red Listing assessments. There are a wide array of projects available to assist with monitoring and data gathering, such as SANBI’s South African Red List: Plants and Animals project, Alien (s Afr), Vegetation Types of South Africa and Scouts South Africa. iNaturalist brings two beneficial aspects to assist with this, linking field observation images with critical data such as trends and location, as well as having a public powered identification and expert validation system. iNaturalist is a great start to getting the public involved in environmental awareness and conservation while contributing significantly to data collection.