Comparative ant phenology and biodiversity awareness at a secondary school in Vuwani
Nengwenani, Nkhangweleni Duncan
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2010 was the "International year of Biodiversity" and was especially important within the Vhembe biosphere reserve of Limpopo province. This initiative was led by the secretariat of the CBD and UNESCO. It was aimed at disseminating information about biodiversity and improving the identification and monitoring of that biodiversity. The present project adapted a method developed for the Iimbovane outreach project to a school in Vuwani, where a citizen science initiative was used to conduct a biodiversity outreach program while simultaneously collecting ant species richness data. The aims of the project were (i) to inventory ant species from Mugoidwa secondary school, (ii) to investigate how species composition from an un-impacted site compared with species from an impacted site over a 12 month period and (iii) to test the effectiveness of the citizen science initiative in promoting biodiversity awareness and understanding. The pitfall method was used to sample ants in an impacted and un-impacted site of the school ground for a year. Grade 11 learners were taught how to sample ants, wash and sort pitfalls and how to use an identification key. Learners were also given lessons in biodiversity. At the end of the project the learners from Mugoidwa secondary school participated in a survey questionnaire along with two other schools. A total of 10577 ants comprising 45 species, 21 genera and 6 subfamilies were identified for study the site. Species composition of the impacted site differed from the un-impacted site. Abundances were also different with the impacted site having higher abundances than the un-impacted site. Each site had species that were unique to them with some species that only occurred on one site contributing to dissimilarities between the sites. Learners successfully participated in the project as citizen scientists and reduced the researcher's workload. Language turned out to be an obstacle in the survey as learners struggled to answer open ended questions.