Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 19–30 | Cite as

Realizing a synergy between research and education: how participation in ant monitoring helps raise biodiversity awareness in a resource-poor country

  • Brigitte BraschlerEmail author
  • Kirsten Mahood
  • Natasha Karenyi
  • Kevin J. Gaston
  • Steven L. Chown
Original Paper


Biodiversity-rich, resource-poor countries need to allocate scarce resources to the competing goals of identifying and monitoring their biodiversity and educating their populace about it. Often only relatively wealthy individuals participate in biodiversity-related volunteering, while the poor are left on the margins. We present a case study that shows how monitoring and education can be combined. South African high school scholars from mostly disadvantaged communities participated in ant monitoring in transformed sites and received lessons using their own data. The project provides baseline data on an important insect group in a region where invertebrate monitoring is rare. Participation in a real study enhances the scholars’ interest in science and direct interaction with scientists allows them to enquire about careers they might not otherwise consider. Here we outline how the project works, what participants learnt, and demonstrate that the data provide insights into ant diversity and the effects of landscape transformation.


Cape Floristic Region Citizen science Formicidae Science outreach South Africa 



We thank the Western Cape Education Department, T. Botha, the curriculum advisors and teachers, and the many scholars we have worked with for their support. South African National Parks, Cape Nature, S. Milton and W.R.J. Dean, M. van der Bank and various reserve managers provided access to land and permits. C. Boonzaaier, H. Davids, E. Nortje, S. Kritzinger-Klopper, T. Khoza, and several volunteers are thanked for their support over the past 4 years. H. G. Robertson verified some ant identifications. J.C. Roux explained how to spell Iimbovane phonetically. The referees are thanked for their constructive comments. SLC thanks G. Preston for continually asking difficult questions about research relevance. This project is funded by the Centre for Invasion Biology and the UK Darwin Initiative (Ref. 14-012/).

Supplementary material

10841_2009_9221_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (27 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 26 kb)


  1. Agosti D, Majer JD, Alonso LE, Schultz TR (eds) (2000) Ants: standard methods for measuring and monitoring biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen AN, Fischer A, Hoffmann BD, Read JL, Richards R (2004) Use of terrestrial invertebrates for biodiversity monitoring in Australian rangelands, with particular references to ants. Austral Ecol 29:87–92. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2004.01362.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anonymous (2004a) From laggard to world class. Reforming maths and science education in South Africa. Centre for Development and Enterprise Report No. 13, JohannesburgGoogle Scholar
  4. Anonymous (2004b) National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act. Act 10 of 2004. South African Government Gazette 467, No. 26436, Cape TownGoogle Scholar
  5. Anonymous (2007) SANBI Annual Review 2006–2007. Available via Accessed 20 July 2008
  6. Balmford A, Gaston KJ (1999) Why biodiversity surveys are good value. Nature 398:204–205. doi: 10.1038/18339 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolton B (1994) Identification Guide to the ant genera of the world. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Botes A, McGeoch MA, Robertson HG, van Niekerk A, Davids HP, Chown SL (2006) Ants, altitude and change in the northern Cape Floristic Region. J Biogeogr 33:71–90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2005.01336.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Botes A, McGeoch MA, Chown SL (2007) Ground-dwelling beetle assemblages in the northern Cape Floristic Region: patterns, correlates and implications. Austral Ecol 32:210–224. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01681.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Braschler B (2009) Successfully implementing a citizen-scientist approach to insect monitoring in a resource-poor country. Bioscience 59:103–104. doi: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.2.2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cheesman OD, Key RS (2007) The extinction of experience: a threat to insect conservation? In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, pp 322–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christian CE (2001) Consequences of a biological invasion reveal the importance of mutualism for plant communities. Nature 413:635–639. doi: 10.1038/35098093 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Christie M, Hanley N, Warren J, Murphy K, Wright R, Hyde T (2006) Valuing the diversity of biodiversity. Ecol Econ 58:304–317. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.07.034 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Plymouth Marine Laboratory, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  15. Colwell RK (2005) EstimateS: statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples. Version 7.5. User’s guide and application. Available via Accessed 22 July 2008
  16. Cowling RM, Lombard AT (2002) Heterogeneity, speciation/extinction history and climate: explaining regional plant diversity patterns in the Cape Floristic Region. Divers Distrib 8:163–179. doi: 10.1046/j.1472-4642.2002.00143.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis ALV, Scholtz CH, Chown SL (1999) Species turnover, community boundaries and biogeographical composition of dung beetle assemblages across an altitudinal gradient in South Africa. J Biogeogr 26:1039–1055. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.1999.00335.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Driver A, Maze K, Rouget M, Lombard AT, Nel J, Turpie JK, Cowling RM, Desmet P, Goodman P, Harris J, Jonas Z, Reyers B, Sink K, Strauss T (2005) National spatial biodiversity assessment 2004: priorities for biodiversity conservation in South Africa. Strelitzia 17. South African National Biodiversity Institute, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  19. Fuller RA, Irvine KN, Devine-Wright P, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2007) Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biol Lett 3:390–394. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0149 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaston KJ (1992) Regional numbers of insect and plant species. Funct Ecol 6:243–247. doi: 10.2307/2389513 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaston KJ (2000) Global patterns in biodiversity. Nature 405:220–227. doi: 10.1038/35012228 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaston KJ, Jackson SF, Cantú-Salazar L, Cruz-Piñón G (2008) The ecological performance of protected areas. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 39:93–113. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.39.110707.173529 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gore A (1992) Earth in the balance. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Gore A (2007) The assault on reason. Penguin Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Hannah L, Midgley G, Hughes G, Bomhard B (2005) The view from the Cape. Extinction risk, protected areas, and climate change. Bioscience 55:231–242. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0231:TVFTCE]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hawkins BA, Porter EE (2003) Does herbivore diversity depend on plant diversity? The case of California butterflies. Am Nat 161:40–49. doi: 10.1086/345479 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoffmann BD, Andersen AN (2003) Responses of ants to disturbance in Australia, with particular reference to functional groups. Austral Ecol 28:444–464. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-9993.2003.01301.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Springer-Verlag, Berlin HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  29. Infield M (1988) Attitudes of a rural community towards conservation and a local conservation area in Natal, South Africa. Biol Conserv 45:21–46. doi: 10.1016/0006-3207(88)90050-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Johnson SD (1992) Plant–animal relationships. In: Cowling RM (ed) The ecology of Fynbos: nutrients, fire and diversity. Oxford University Press, Cape Town, pp 175–205Google Scholar
  31. Kaspari M, Alonso L, O’Donnell S (2000) Three energy variables predict ant abundance at a geographical scale. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 267:485–489. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koch SO, Chown SL, Davis ALV, Endrödy-Younga S, Van Jaarsveld AS (2000) Conservation strategies for poorly surveyed taxa: a dung beetle (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae) case study form southern Africa. J Insect Conserv 4:45–56. doi: 10.1023/A:1009634318926 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kothari A (2006) Community conserved areas. In: Lockwood M, Worboys GL, Kothari A (eds) Managing protected areas. A global guide. Earthscan, London, pp 549–573Google Scholar
  34. Lindenmayer DB (1999) Future directions for biodiversity conservation in managed forests: indicator species, impact studies and monitoring programs. For Ecol Manag 115:277–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Linder HP (2003) The radiation of the Cape flora, southern Africa. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 78:597–638. doi: 10.1017/S1464793103006171 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lovett JC (2008) Urbanisation and over-population. Afr J Ecol 46:461–462. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2028.2008.01040.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mayr GL (1868) Formicidae novae americannae collectae a Prof P. de Strobel. Ann Soc Nat Modena 3:161–178Google Scholar
  38. McNeely JA, Lockwood M, Chapman J (2006) Building support for protected areas. In: Lockwood M, Worboys GL, Kothari A (eds) Managing protected areas. A global guide. Earthscan, London, pp 656–676Google Scholar
  39. Midgley GF, Millar HD, Rutherford MC, Powrie LW (2002) Assessing the vulnerability of species richness to anthropogenic climate change in a biodiversity hotspot. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 11:445–451. doi: 10.1046/j.1466-822X.2002.00307.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Midgley GF, Chown SL, Kgope BS (2007) Monitoring effects of anthropogenic climate change on ecosystems: A role for systematic ecological observation? S Afr J Sci 103:282Google Scholar
  41. Miller JR (2005) Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience. Trends Ecol Evol 20:430–434. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2005.05.013 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Mittermeier RA, Robles Gil P, Hoffman M, Pilgrim J, Brooks T, Goettsch Mittermeier C, Lamoureux J, da Fonseca GAB (2004) Hotspots revisited: earth’s biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions. Monterrey, Cemex, Conservation International and Agrupación Sierra MadreGoogle Scholar
  43. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Goettsch Mittermeier C, da Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858. doi: 10.1038/35002501 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Novotný V, Drozd P, Miller SE, Kulfan M, Janda M, Basset Y, Weiblen GD (2006) Why are there so many species of herbivorous insects in tropical rainforests? Science 313:1115–1118. doi: 10.1126/science.1129237 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Parr CL, Chown SL (2001) Inventory and bioindicator sampling: testing pitfall and Winkler methods with ants in a South African savanna. J Insect Conserv 5:27–36. doi: 10.1023/A:1011311418962 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Parr CL, Robertson HG, Biggs HC, Chown SL (2004) Response of African savanna ants to long-term fire regimes. J Appl Ecol 41:630–642. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-8901.2004.00920.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pergams ORW, Zaradic PA (2008) Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:2295–2300. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709893105 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Procheş Ş, Cowling RM (2006) Insect diversity in Cape Fynbos and neighbouring South African vegetation. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 15:445–451Google Scholar
  49. Procheş Ş, Forest F, Veldtman R, Chown SL, Cowling RM, Johnson SD, Richardson DM, Savolainen V (2008) Dissecting the insect-plant relationship in the Cape. Mol Phylogenet Evol. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2008.05.040
  50. Ricklefs RE (2004) A comprehensive framework for global patterns in biodiversity. Ecol Lett 7:1–15. doi: 10.1046/j.1461-0248.2003.00554.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Samways MJ (2005) Insect diversity conservation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  52. Samways MJ (2007) Rescuing the extinction of experience. Biodivers Conserv 16:1995–1997. doi: 10.1007/s10531-006-9144-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Santschi F (1923) Revue des fourmis du genre Brachymyrmex Mayr. An Mus Hist B Aires 31:650–678Google Scholar
  54. Scholtz CH, Chown SL (1993) Insect conservation and extensive agriculture: the savanna of southern Africa. In: Gaston KJ, New TR, Samways MJ (eds) Perspectives on insect conservation. Intercept, Andover, pp 75–95Google Scholar
  55. Stewart AJA, New TR (2007) Insect conservation in temperate biomes: issues, progress and prospects. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CABI, Wallingford, pp 1–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Taylor B (2007) The Ants of (sub-Saharan) Africa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Available via Accessed 21 July 2008
  57. Williams B, Campbell C, Williams R (1995) Broken houses: science and development in the African savannahs. Agric Human Values 12:29–38. doi: 10.1007/BF02217294 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ziman J (2007) Science in civil society. Imprint-Academic, ExeterGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brigitte Braschler
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kirsten Mahood
    • 2
    • 3
  • Natasha Karenyi
    • 2
    • 4
  • Kevin J. Gaston
    • 1
  • Steven L. Chown
    • 2
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and ZoologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  3. 3.DennesigSouth Africa
  4. 4.South African National Biodiversity InstituteClaremontSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations