Using photography to increase scientific understanding and local awareness of a critically endangered ecosystem
As described in the video, the renosterveld is an extremely biodiverse and poorly understood ecosystem located in the Western Cape of South Africa. Located within the richest and smallest floral kingdom on earth, this rare vegetation type and the many hundreds of unique plant species that occur there are at extreme risk of extinction due to modern agricultural technology and indifferent, uninformed land use decisions. I have developed a multi-disciplinary project in order to preserve this valuable ecosystem into the future for environmental and cultural posterity.
To help preserve this landscape and to raise local public awareness for the cause, I will photograph individual plant, bird, and mammal species on the majority renosterveld remnants across the former range of the renosterveld. I will use local contacts and a landscape-scale grid system to help map out the most efficient means of documenting the renosterveld in its entirety; I am particularly adept at this technique as I've held multiple positions executing botany field research over the past five years.
Each photo taken will be geolocated on site then uploaded to CASABIO, the collaborative archive of South African biodiversity. Each species/photo will then act as a data point within the ecologically oriented CASABIO database. This will allow conservation biologists to map population trends, land managers to identify critical conservation areas, educators to write locally relevant environmental lesson plans, and much more. This program is free and open to the public who we encourage to upload their own photos and interact with the ecological models.
Another goal of the project is to lay the groundwork for a field guide to the flora and fauna of the renosterveld, something that does not already exist. The CASABIO database will not only allow us to develop a field guide to the renosterveld as a whole, but, maybe more importantly, a field guide may be customized to any area or individual landholding. A simple field guide will be distributed to each landowner that participates in the documentation process in order to help them understand the globally important species they are caretakers of.
The renosterveld is an extremely biodiverse ecosystem within the richest floral kingdom on earth (see video). Much like other highly biodiverse systems around the world, new species are being discovered in the renosterveld on a relatively regular basis. Due to the broad scope of this project, it has the potential to uncover species previously unknown to science. Any new species identified will promptly be added to the South African Red List of Endangered Species. As such, it is our goal to recognize these species before they disappear forever.
The project has been designed to accomplish the most for conservation for the least amount of money. Your contribution, the money raised through the Kickstarter campaign, will go toward the basic expenses and tools needed to complete this project. These include a quality GPS unit, camera equipment, field guides for landowners, fuel, and room and board. Even contributing $1 will help me cover five more kilometers and five more rare species found nowhere else on Earth.
My project proposal has also made it through to the final round of National Geographic funding review which will take place in late August, but there is one problem. At my age, Nat Geo funding is limited to $5000, not nearly enough to support the entire project. The complementary funding we sought through traditional conservation organizations failed in the shadow of more charismatic organisms like rhinos and tigers. If I can raise $10,000 by August I have a chance to gain the strategic financial and multimedia support of the National Geographic Society.
I am now looking to you to help bring this project to fruition. Any donation, large or small, will help conserve what is arguably one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet and will be greatly appreciated.
Odette Curtis PhD, Director of the Overberg Lowlands Conservation Trust
Odette has been an integral part of this project since the beginning over a year ago when she led my first tour of the renosterveld. With an intimate knowledge of the natural and social environment of the renosterveld, she will be an important asset in the field when it comes to locating individual renosterveld remnants and identifying tricky species.
David Gwynne-Evans PhD, Director of CASABIO David has also been with the project for nearly a year. He will be an important resource in software development and management as the database is populated with records of the renosterveld.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Once the project has started, I think the greatest challenge will be interacting with the renosterveld landowners - a daily requirement - who are primarily rural Afrikaans farmers (though they also speak English for the most part). They will be an integral part of the success of this project, but bridging the culture gap and gaining their trust will be a struggle, I don't doubt that. I will rely on my years of field experience dealing with skeptical landowners to help overcome this challenge as well as the exceptional experience and support of Odette Curtis when it comes to gaining friends and allies in this venture. By this point in my career as a conservationist, I am also very good at connecting with people and explaining why conservation is important. I'm sure this ability will only be heightened once I am located in a globally important biodiversity hotspot. Many of the farmers we will be contacting and interacting with have also participated in minor scientific studies in the past, so we have that going for us.
I am acutely aware of the perception that may exist of me as a foreign national attempting to fix something that is broken in an often perceived to be marginalized country. I have developed a very specific skill set over the years and am now in the position to use these skills for something particularly good. I am simply a concerned citizen of this global community that is eager to do something for the environment; we all know it needs any help it can get.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Donations of $25 or more will receive a personalized postcard and thank you from my location during the project.Estimated delivery:
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With a donation of $50 or more, one will receive a signed, 8x10", frameable print of a photo taken during the project of an endangered species on the veld.Estimated delivery:
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With a donation of $100 or more, one will receive a set of three signed, 8x10", frameable prints of photos taken during the project of rare or endangered species on the veld.Estimated delivery:
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With a donation of $500 or more, one will receive a set of five signed, 8x10", frameable prints of photos taken during the project of rare or endangered species on the veld.Estimated delivery:
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