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