How a walk on the beach helps science

Smartphone apps are helping to fuel citizen science, writes Claire Keeton. Anyone can log flora and fauna sightings and contribute to conservation

28 March 2021 - 00:00

The wind rustles through a reed bed in Hout Bay, the bass line to the warbling of birds. Standing very still, Garret Skead looks around and identifies more than a dozen bird species by sight or by their calls.“The habitat is a clue,” he says, reeling off names. “Then you evaluate the major features to make an identification. It’s like a diagnosis.”

Skead is a pathologist who spends his free time searching for rare birds and recording these sightings on the app BirdLasser. He is among a legion of “citizen scientists” in SA who observe flora and fauna and enter the information into biodiversity apps, helping to paint a picture of the country’s species and where they are at risk...

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