Gansbaai Courant

Blog: Les Underhill inspires action for Biodiversity

Published: 24 October 2013
By:Dr Anina Lee

Whale Coast Conservation, previously known as Overstrand Conservation Foundation (OCF), held its 11th AGM at their premises the ‘Green House’ in Vermont on Thursday, 17 October. The guest speaker on the occasion was professor Les Underhill from UCT’s Animal Demography Unit. He posed the question: "How can I make a difference (to the conservation of biodiversity)?" He explained that this question is one which is often asked by members of the public. The short answer is to become a "Citizen Scientist" and contribute to biodiversity databases, such as those assembled at the Animal Demography Unit (ADU). This data makes a difference by being used in such a way that it ultimately contributes to influencing biodiversity policy. Les’ presentation described some of the opportunities for ADU Citizen Scientists. There are endless opportunities for recording sightings of every kind of creature in Africa. You just need a camera (a cell phone will do) and a way of pin-pointing the location of the creature, date and time. Then upload the information onto the ADU virtual museum and you have contributed to science and can influence policies for conserving biodiversity.
From left to right: Sheraine van Wyk (citizen science project leader), Preston Arendse (citizen scientist), Professor Les Underhill (UCT Director: Animal Demography Unit) and Danfred Bruintjies (frog monitoring project citizen scientist).

In Les’ words: “We have only scratched the surface of the potential to make a difference for the conservation of biodiversity.” So anyone who is out there watching birds, creeping up on frogs, marvelling at fynbos, chasing butterflies, or photographing the splendour of nature, please remember to photograph any animals you see. Your sighting will contribute enormously to science - and you will be a valuable citizen scientist. To quote John Hanks: “Snap it, Map it”. Take the crucial and difficult step from being interested to participating and so become “ambassadors for biodiversity”. To find out more about the Animal Demography Unit and how to become a citizen scientist, go to or follow them on Face Book at

To make the transition to active participation easier, Professor Underhill will hold workshops in the Hermanus area during December on how you can become a citizen scientist and use your hobby to make that all-important difference. Whale Coast Conservation can be contacted on or 028-316-2527 for more information.

Dr Anina Lee, Communications Manager

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