Editorials

2014-02-28 Les Underhill 
ADU page in African Birdlife, March-April 2014 

ADU page in African Birdlife

 
 

 
2014-02-25 Les Underhill 
Citizen Science Week : Saturday 8 March to Sunday 16 March 

Citizen Science Week 8-16 March

Ultimately, the goal of all the data collection by the ADU's citizen scientists is to have an impact on biodiversity conservation. The wealth of data and information contributed by our citizen scientists, collated and curated at the ADU, and analysed by our students and staff and by many other people, has improved biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Together we are making a difference! For the evidence of this have a look at this one-page article.

The ADU's Citizen Science Week celebrates the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, totalling some 18 million records. The objective of our "Citizen Science Week" is to give all citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data in digital format as we are able during the week. Citizen Science Week runs from Saturday 8 March to Sunday 16 March, so it includes two weekends.

 
 

 
2013-12-21 Les Underhill 
 

 
 

 
2013-11-03 Les Underhill 
Logos of all the Animal Demography Unit projects 

Logos of the ADU projects

 
 

 
2013-08-31 Les Underhill 
 

Camera Traps

 
 

 
2013-06-24 Les Underhill 
The April-May newsletter of the Animal Demography Unit  

April May ADU Newsletter

Every two months our newsletter will describe some of the projects and initiatives in which the Animal Demography Unit is involved. The overarching objective of all we do is to make a contribution to biodiversity conservation. We collect raw data, especially through our citizen science abd student projects; we curate this data and make it accessible through our huge databases; and we process it through analyses which transform the data into information which conservation management can use to determine policies and priorities. Our buzzwords – Citizen Science : Digital Biodiversity : Statistical Ecology.

This newsletter follows on from where our annual report for 2012 left off. You can download the annual report here.

The layout of the both the newsletter and the annual report was undertaken by PhD student Elsa Bussiere. Thanks, Elsa.

 
 

 
2013-03-06 Les Underhill 
The February-March newsletter of the Animal Demography Unit 

ADU Newsletter Feb-Mar 2013

Every two months our newsletter will describe some of the projects and initiatives in which the Animal Demography Unit is involved. The overarching objective of all we do is to make a contribution to biodiversity conservation. We collect raw data, especially through our citizen science abd student projects; we curate this data and make it accessible through our huge databases; and we process it through analyses which transform the data into information which conservation management can use to determine policies and priorities. Our buzzwords – Citizen Science : Digital Biodiversity : Statistical Ecology.

This newsletter follows on from where our annual report for 2012 left off. You can download the annual report here.

The layout of the both the newsletter and the annual report was undertaken by PhD student Elsa Bussiere. Thanks, Elsa.

 
 

 
2013-02-26 Les Underhill 
Annual Report for the Animal Demography Unit 2012 

ADU Annual Report 2012

The Animal Demography Unit believes that the best way to achieve biodiversity conservation is through enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. We achieve this in three ways. We gather enormous volumes of data through our expanding citizen science programmes. We lead Africa in the emerging discipline of statistical ecology, and use its approaches to understand the dynamics of animal populations. We multiply our effectiveness by training postgraduate students to apply this paradigm. This annual report describes our progress during 2012.

You can download it here.

The layout of the report was done by PhD student Elsa Bussiere. Thanks, Elsa.

 
 

 
2013-02-17 Les Underhill 
Annual Report for the ADU 2012 

ADU Annual Report 2012

The Animal Demography Unit believes that the best way to achieve biodiversity conservation is through enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. We achieve this in three ways. We gather enormous volumes of data through our expanding citizen science programmes. We lead Africa in the emerging discipline of statistical ecology, and use its approaches to understand the dynamics of animal populations. We multiply our effectiveness by training postgraduate students to apply this paradigm. This annual report describes our progress during 2012.

You can download it here.

The layout of the report was done by PhD student Elsa Busierre. Thanks, Elsa.

 
 

 
2013-02-16 Tali Hoffman 
It's World Pangolin Day! 

To honour World Pangolin Day, we would like to deviate from our usual ‘Mad Mammal Monday’ feature, and today present you with SCALY MAMMAL SATURDAY! The ‘scaly mammal’ of which we speak is, of course, the pangolin.

First off, you would be forgiven for not knowing that a pangolin is a mammal! With their scaly armour they may seem more reptilian than their furry (and fur-less!) counterparts. But they are indeed mammals, and like the fur covering the body of most mammals, the scales covering the bodies of pangolins protects them.

Pangolins have overlapping scales everywhere on their bodies except on their very-exposed bellies. This is why, when pangolins feel threatened, they roll up into a tight ball, tucking their heads below their tails, and forming an impenetrable body of armour. Their tails are incredibly strong and once rolled up it is impossible to forcefully open a pangolin up. And it’s recommended not to try! As well as being very hard, their scales are also extremely sharp and can inflict serious wounds on any would-be attacker. More than one careless person has also lost a finger after getting it trapped underneath one of these scales!

This armour is one of the things that makes pangolins – of which there are 8 species worldwide, and 4 species in Africa – really, really cool. Which animal enthusiast hasn’t longed to see a pangolin in the wild? Alas, because of their largely nocturnal habits, and their low population densities, pangolins are one of the trickiest animals to spot (keep this in mind when next we encourage you to go ‘Phunting’ - see http://www.pangolinphoto.com/blog/anyone-for-phunting if this word makes no sense to you yet :).

Their secret and solitary nature also means that, despite being so very, very cool, pangolins remain one of the least-studied of mammal families. And yet, never have we needed to know more about pangolins than we do today. Throughout their range they are heavily exploited as a source of food as well as for their use in cultural rituals, superstitions and traditional medicines.

They need our help if they are to survive. This is why, unlike many lesser-celebrated mammals, pangolins have their very own day - World Pangolin Day (today!) – a day that aims to propel pangolins onto the global conversation stage. And few folks are doing more for pangolin conservation than the African Pangolin Working Group (APWG) – one of our MammalMAP collaborators – who are rallying scientists and citizen scientists alike to try to improve our knowledge of pangolin whereabouts, so that we may counter the plethora of threats that they face. You can read more about what this inspiring team of conservation minded people is doing, and much more about pangolins in general, here: http://pangolin.org.za/. You can also tune in to Tim Neary’s Conservation Hour on Cape Talk/702 Talk Radio (on radio or online) to learn more from Darren Pietersen, the APWG secretary who provided the great pangolin pictures below.

Every record of pangolin distributions is so very valuable. If you’ve seen pangolins around and you have not yet submitted these records to MammalMAP, on behalf of pangolins everywhere, we urge you to please do so. Not only will MammalMAPPERS the world over be in awe of your sighting, but this record will offer a crucial piece in the pangolin conservation puzzle. All pangolin records submitted to MammalMAP will be shared with the APWG (and vice versa), so you can be sure that the information will be used at the highest level of conservation planning.

Happy World Pangolin Day everyone!

 
 

 
2013-02-14 Les Underhill 
Annual Report for the ADU 2012 

ADU Annual Report 2012

The Animal Demography Unit believes that the best way to achieve biodiversity conservation is through enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. We achieve this in three ways. We gather enormous volumes of data through our expanding citizen science programmes. We lead Africa in the emerging discipline of statistical ecology, and use its approaches to understand the dynamics of animal populations. We multiply our effectiveness by training postgraduate students to apply this paradigm. This annual report describes our progress during 2012.

You can download it here.

The layout of the report was done by PhD student Elsa Busierre. Thanks, Elsa.

 
 

 
2013-01-13 Les Underhill 
The prepublication offer for the "butterfly atlas" will start in the next week or so! 

SABCA book coverThe "butterfly atlas" is being prepared for printing. This is the product of the SABCA project, the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment. This project was a partnership between SANBI, LepSoc and the ADU.

Unless the distributions and Red List status of species are known, conservation planning is impossible. This book reports the outcomes of the most important biodiversity conservation project for butterflies ever undertaken in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It contains an updated Red List for all 794 butterfly species and subspecies in the region. Each conservation assessment account is supported by a map showing the range of the species. These maps are based on the comprehensive butterfly distribution database assembled during this project. Each butterfly species has a colour photograph to enable identification. Introductory chapters provide details on the methods employed, a discussion on the conservation status of and threats to the butterflies in the atlas region, future priorities for butterfly conservation and research, and guidelines on how this publication should be used by various stakeholders. The broad range of information as well as the informative and beautiful illustrations presented here makes this a publication which will be useful to everyone, from conservation planners and managers, researchers, professional and amateur lepidopterists, legislators, environmental consultants and members of the public.

There are 657 species of butterflies in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Some of the species have subspecies, and it was at the level of subspecies that this conservation assessment was undertaken. Thus 794 taxa were assessed. Three are "Extinct" and 14 are "Critically Endangered" and four of these 14 are considered to be "Possibly Extinct." Another 27 taxa are classified as "Endangered," 19 as "Vulnerable," five as "Near Threatened" and nine as "Data Deficient." The remaining 717 taxa are "Least Concern."

This is a South African book. It will be printed on South African paper supplied by Sappi, and produced by CTP Book Printers. This is the same company that printed Faansie Peacock’s LBJs, a book that critically depends on the accurate rendition of colours. Each copy will include a contribution to butterfly conservation in southern Africa. Each copy sold will make a contribution to the South African economy and to butterfly conservation in the region.

There will only be one chance only to buy this book. Unless you buy your copy on the prepublication offer, you will be extremely lucky to obtain a copy later on. It will be 600 pages long, A4-size and full colour throughout, with a hard cover. The anticipated price on the prepublication offer will be R595, and this will include VAT, packaging and postage.

The formal pre-publication offer will launch towards the end of January, and will remain open until 31 March 2013. This is advance warning to prepare for this publishing opportunity.

 
 

 
2012-12-05 Les Underhill 
You can throw rocks at bulldozers, or you can become a citizen scientist 

Citizen Science projects of the Animal Demography Unit ADUThe Animal Demography Unit believes that we can influence biodiversity policy, locally, nationally and globally. We believe that the best way to achieve this is by enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. Through our expanding range of citizen science programmes, we gather the enormous volumes of data needed for this decision making. In the Animal Demography Unit, we have three focuses: citizen science, statistical ecology, and training postgraduate students in our paradigm.

The citizen scientists who participate in our projects have the assurance that their data will be lovingly curated, and be made available for conservation research and management. We do a lot of the analyses ourselves, because we lead Africa in the emerging discipline of statistical ecology, and we use its approaches to understand the dynamics of animal populations. The two ADU PhD students who graduate on 17 December, Sally Hofmeyr and Doug Harebottle, undertook analyses of the CAR and CWAC databases respectively. These are two of our large and long-running citizen science projects. Both PhD projects lie firmly in the centre of the intersection between citizen science, statistical ecology and education.

This summer we would like all of our citizen scientists to try and participate in additional ADU projects. Have a look at the comprehensive collection of logos alongside. Do you know them all? If not, explore our websites to find them. The projects that end with the word MAP are all Virtual Museum projects. The set of taxa with virtual museum projects is steadily expanding, and most of the logos you don't recognize will be at vmus.adu.org.za.

So the choice is yours. You can throw stones at the bulldozers, become an activist, write letters to the polititians, join an NGO ... or you can do the thing that really does make a difference, become a citizen scientist, and help collect some of the crucial small pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of biodiversity. Without all the pieces, no amount of statistical ecology will enable us to construct the full picture on which conservation will be based. Biodiversity needs your help.

 
 

 
2012-11-23 Les Underhill 
Slideshow showing year by year progress with SABAP2 from 2007, and updated to 22 November 2012 

SABAP2 annual progress 2007 to Nov 2012SABAP2 is the most important bird conservation research project in southern Africa. If you don't know the distributions of birds, and how they are changing, you cannot do conservation intelligently and effectively. This slideshow demonstrates how the citizen scientists who contribute their observations to SABAP2 have made the most amazing progress since the project started in July 2007. The slideshow is updated to yesterday, 22 November 2012.

Awesome progress, Team SABAP2.

 
 

 
2012-11-13 Les Underhill 
Celebrate Bird Week at Intaka Island 

Intaka birding week

 
 

 
2012-10-27 Les Underhill 
Animal Demography Unit at the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress 

PAOC 13 logo

The 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress was held in Arusha, Tanzania, from 14–21 October. The ADU was represented by 11 staff, postgraduate students and honorary research associates. Dieter Oschadleus has presented a short summary of the conference here and a fuller account here. Between the 11 of us, we made a substantial contribution to the programme of the conference. This is a list of the presentations and the posters with at least one ADU person as a co-author. Dieter Oschadleus and I presented a plenary on weavers. We also arranged three round table discussions. All these contributions are detailed below.

Papers

The adaptation of primary moult pattern in Curlew Sandpipers in relation to wintering areas. Yahkat Barshep, Birgit Erni, Les G Underhill and Clive DT Minton

South Africa’s seabirds and climate change – winners and losers. Robert JM Crawford, Res Altwegg and Greg Distiller

The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project: progress and outcomes, 2007–2012. Doug M Harebottle

A proposed new method to assess wetland avifaunal importance: flyway and regional approaches. Doug M Harebottle, Les G Underhill and Tony Williams

Using citizen science to document a species decline: the Southern Black Korhaan Afrotis afra. Sally Hofmeyr, Les G Underhill, Phoebe Barnard, Res Altwegg, Kristin Broms and Donella Young

Monitoring Palearctic migrant birds in Kenya using 43 years of ringing data from Ngulia, Tsavo West. Colin M Jackson, David Pearson, Graeme Backhurst and Les G Underhill

Changes in population of the threatened Amani Sunbird in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest from 1999–2011. Andrew Kinzer, Colin M Jackson and Albert Baya

Using niche modelling to predict the future conservation status of the endangered Sokoke Scops Owl. Ara Monadjem, Munir Virani, Colin M Jackson and April Reside

Conservation of Verreaux’s Eagles in the Cederberg and Sandveld, Western Cape. S Megan Murgatroyd

Variation in colony size and nest sites in weavers. Dieter Oschadleus

The development of an avian wind farm sensitivity map for South Africa. Ernst F Retief, Mark D Anderson, Doug M Harebottle, Andrew Jenkins, Robert Simmons, Hanneline A Smit, Chris van Rooyen and Megan Diamond

The relationship between land cover and distribution of Black Sparrowhawks Accipiter melanoleucus in South Africa. Erin Wreford, Res Altwegg, Mark Norrus-Rogers, Mark Brown and Colleen Downs

Posters

Monitoring an avian invasive pest, the House Crow, in Malindi, Kenya. Albert Baya, Gabriel Katana, Andrew Kinzer and Colin M Jackson

A unified approach to data collection and curation throughout Africa. Michael Brooks, Doug M Harebottle and Les G Underhill

Moult of the Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica: trends in timing over five decades. Marc Burman, Les G Underhill, Res Altwegg and Birgit Erni

Investigating the decline of the Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius: movements, habitat use, population trends. Sally D Hofmeyr, Craig Symes and Les G Underhill

Survival of an intra-African migrant, the African Reed Warbler Acrocephelus baeticatus. Dorine YM Jansen.

Modelling avian range changes over the two decades between the first and second bird atlas projects in South Africa. Megan Loftie-Eaton, Res Altwegg and Florent Bled

Plenary

Weavers: Africa's awesome research opportunity. Les G Underhill and Dieter Oschadleus

Round Table Discussions

AFRING. Doug M Harebottle, Dieter Oschadleus and Colin M Jackson

Citizen science, bird monitoring and free data access for all. Michael Brooks, Doug M Harebottle and Les G Underhill

Weaver Research in Africa Project (WRAP). Dieter Oschadleus and Les G Underhill

 
 

 
2012-09-22 Les Underhill 
Make a difference. Become a Citizen Scientist and PHRACK. Please Help Resist: Atlas the Colourful Karoo. 

PHRACK : Please Help Resist: Atlas the Colourful Karoo

The ADU's atlas projects are critical for the conservation of biodiversity.

 

You can lie down in front of the bulldozers.

You can write to your politicians.

You can take part in protest marches.

Or you can really make a difference. Be a citizen scientist.

And go and PHRACK. Please Help Resist: Atlas the Colourful Karoo.

 

For the bird atlas, the SABAP2 coverage map above shows that, even after five years of atlasing, vast areas of the Karoo are still poorly covered. If we want to make data-based arguments in relation to fracking the karoo (or mining in Limpopo, or whether Pied Crows really are a problem), we need first of all to have an inventory of what biodiversity is present, and how it is changing. The bird data is the best we have got. We have an amazing legacy of 11 million records of bird distribution data for SABAP1. The SABAP2 database is rapidly closing in on 4 million records. But for both databases the records are unevenly distributed and there is a shortage of records for the Karoo.

Likewise for the butterfly atlas, the reptile atlas and the frog atlas, the Karoo is more poorly covered than any other region. And the same is likely to be true of the new mammal atlas project.

So, if you live in the Karoo, please consider making a difference by becoming an ADU citizen scientist. The first point of contact is Doug Harebottle. There are lots of ways you can help collect the vital data that is needed to make the case for biodiversity.

And, if you are an ADU citizen scientist who doesn't live in the Karoo, please consider making a special journey to go atlasing in some of the most beautiful and unusual landscapes that South Africa has to offer.

Come and PHRACK. Please Help Resist: Atlas the Colourful Karoo.

 
 

 
2012-08-21 Les Underhill 
New booklet: Biodiversity early warning systems: South African citizen scientists monitoring change. Edited by Phoebe Barnard & Marienne de Villiers 

Biodiversity early warning systems This booklet is the result of a collaboration between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) of the University of Cape Town and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

The Foreward, written by Ms Nosipho Ngcaba, Director-General of DEA, and Dr Tanya Abrahamse, CEO of SANBI, says: "Climate change presents the global community with one of the biggest challenges of human history. If we cannot rise to this challenge, and use our skills to our advantage, our future could admittedly be bleak. Yet it does not have to be that way. Human foresight, human ingenuity, and clear-sighted leadership are all qualities which tend to appear in times of need. South Africa has shown the world that it is capable of all these things, from the peaceful transition to democracy in 1994, to our emergence as a world talent in science and social development, to the quality of our leadership and our vibrant democracy."

... and goes on to say: "We are delighted to say that South Africa has a wealth of talent in its civil society for identifying, monitoring and conserving our biodiversity. Our "citizen scientists" are justly becoming famous on the world stage for their participation in excellent species atlases, wildflower conservation schemes, and projects on Red Data species population trends. These species are our "canaries in the coal mine." You can read about some of these wonderful initiatives, part of our emerging early warning system for biodiversity, in this booklet.

"We believe strongly that it is the active participation of the broad citizenry in engaging with biodiversity and the environment that will be the saviour of our natural assets. This booklet gives us a glimpse of this possibility. We hope that our experiences so far on this journey will inspire and encourage you."

You can download this 16-page booklet as a pdf from the ADU website [4.2MB]. It is a celebration of the achievements of our citizen scientists.

 
 

 
2012-08-19 Les Underhill 
PhD student Meg Murgatroyd is presenting a talk at Canal Walk this Wednesday  

Meg Murgatroyd talkMeg Murgatroyd talk 2 Meg Murgatroyd, ADU PhD student, is doing a presentation this coming Wednesday, 22 August, at 18h30, at the Cape Union Mart store in Canal Walk, Cape Town.

Meg is researching Verreaux's Eagles in the Cederberg. She has a research blog and a Facebook Page.

 
 

 
2012-08-14 Les Underhill 
LepSoc photographic competition 

LepSoc poster

LepSoc has a photographic competition, closing date, the end of September. Peter Webb, one of the leading promoters of the Virtual Museum for butterflies, says: "I have seen the amazing photographs in the Virtual Museum and really believe one of these could win this competition easily! Please give it a shot. As Andre Coetzer suggests in his letter below, if you have links to any photographic clubs please tell them about this competition. If you are a teacher at a school, please tell everyone there about this – we need the enthusiastic youngsters."

Hello everyone

The Lepidopterists' Society of Africa (The Butterfly and Moth Society of Africa) is hosting another photographic competition and I would like to ask all of you to please forward this to your camera club members. This is a pretty unique competition in that we only allow photographs of butterflies, moths and their eggs, larvae and pupae. Such a limited scope really forces photographers to become creative, and I would like to challenge all of you and your camera club members to enter. There is definitely going to be some stiff competition – the overall objective is simply to raise awareness for butterflies and moths.

More information can be found in the competition rules on the LepSoc website

Regards

Andre Coetzer

Competition Coordinator

 
 

 
2012-07-24 Les Underhill 
MammalMAP presentation: Tali Hoffman, Iziko Museum, Cape Town, Wednesday 25 July  

MammalMAP talk

 
 

 
2012-06-14 Les Underhill 
Science for Citizens: Penguins as Ocean Sentinels (August) – Avian Architects (Sep–Oct) 

For full details of these courses, go to the website of the UCT Centre for Open Learning: www.col.uct.ac.za

 

Science for Citizens

 
 

 
2012-06-12 Doug Harebottle 
Underhill picks up major national accolade 

This is copied from the UCT daily news website.

 

UCT's Emeritus Professor Les Underhill received the prestigious Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award for 2011 at a ceremony in Johannesburg last week, in so doing becoming the fourth UCT and twelfth overall recipient of the award.

Dr Les Underhill Dr Les Underhill
Then: The then Dr Les Underhill is capped in 1973 by then UCT chancellor, Harry Oppenheimer. Now: Emer Prof Les Underhill receives his Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award for 2011 from Mary Slack, chairperson of the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.

The Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Awards were established by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust in 2001 to commemorate the Trust's founder, and especially to recognise his efforts to support human and intellectual development, to advance scholarship and encourage ideas. The award is described as a very special investment to encourage and acknowledge excellence in scholarship in all its forms, and has been called the top award for research on the African continent.

The honour comes with some special memories for Underhill – when he graduated with his PhD in mathematical statistics in 1973, it was Oppenheimer who capped him.

It is a great honour and privilege to be linked to this amazing person once more, in this remarkable way," said Underhill.

Having "drifted far from" his roots in mathematical statistics into a new discipline known as statistical ecology – "where we put statistics into biology and biology into statistics" – Underhill is now director of UCT's internationally acclaimed Animal Demography Unit (ADU).

The Oppenheimer award, which carries a monetary purse of up to R1 million, will go towards setting up early warning systems for biodiversity in South Africa, reports Underhill. The "big idea" is to contribute towards the development of a toolkit for biodiversity monitoring.

The measurements taken by ADU team members and its thousands of citizen scientists can now be used to index biodiversity on an annual basis, he explains. For example, the ADU is turning its bird atlas project, a collaboration with the South African National Biodiversity Institute and BirdLife South Africa, into annual maps of bird distribution, so that scientists can be alerted to problems as they arise.

This way, says Underhill, they can monitor the range expansion of the Common Myna and the range contraction of the Secretarybird.

The award is, if anything, a testament to the work of many partners, he adds.

"I am hugely grateful to the people who have facilitated this process: my postgraduate students and staff, and the citizen scientists of the ADU."

Professor Danie Visser, deputy vice-chancellor responsible for research, sang Underhill's praises, highlighting the ADU's philosophy of community involvement.

"We are extremely proud of, and thankful to, Les Underhill," said Visser. "Not only has his vision of 'citizen science' shown how the broader community can become seriously involved in the work of the university, but it has produced data sets that are indispensable to the future of our continent."

Through his work, Underhill has also made the ADU a sought-after destination for young researchers.

"His interdisciplinary approach and huge enthusiasm for his work has enabled him to attract a very large number of highly talented master's and PhD students," noted Visser, "making him one of the heroes in our quest to produce the next generation of scientists."

 
 

 
2012-05-25 Les Underhill 
May is Africa Month, and 25 May is Africa Day 

UCT@Africa Africa Day Logo

May is Africa Month, with a special focus on 25 May as Africa Day. Everyone at UCT is encouraged to participate, in any way they feel appropropriate in UCT's vision of being an Afropolitan university. Afropolitanism is a mindset which drives a myriad of projects, collaborations and engagements with a focus in Africa. A strong pillar of being Afropolitan is UCT's desire to specialise in knowledge on and about Africa. This is achieved through a variety of initiatives and engagements. From the ADU perspective, this is mainly about research collaborations, in many different ways and at many different levels.

So, in this news item, we highlight two African citizen science initiatives, in Namibia and Kenya.

On 1 May, the Namibian component of the Second Southern Afrian Bird Atlas Project was launched in Namibia during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Namibia Bird Club in Windhoek. The ADU people in Windhoek were Dieter Oschadleus, who coordinates SAFRING and did a presentation on weavers, PhD student Arnold van der Westhuizen, who ran the SABAP2 workshop, and Les Underhill, who did a presentation entitled "The Animal Demography Unit in Namibia," a talk which reviewed the research done in the ADU with a strong Namibian component, and the findings of the PhD students who have done their fieldwork entirely in Namibia. There have been three news items about this: one, two and three!

The second main "African" event this month is a workshop on weavers in Kenya, being led by Dieter Oschadleus. The dates are 28–30 May, and the venue is the Nairobi National Museum. The details are here. There are 118 species of weavers, and all except five occur only in Africa. More than 60 species of weavers occur in Kenya, making it the country with the highest diversity of weavers. From many perspectives, weavers represent an exceptionally interesting family of birds. They represent one of Africa's most interesting (and untapped) opportunities to make a contribution to biological theories. The workshop in Nairobi helps grasp one aspect of the challenge to study weavers.

The ADU shares UCT's Afropolitan mindset.

 
 

 
2012-05-05 Les Underhill 
The ADU's Virtual Museums are gaining momentum 

Camera for the Virtual MuseumsThe reptile atlas project (SARCA) started just as digital cameras and hand-held GPS units were becoming affordable. The reptile atlas implemented the concept of the Virtual Museum as the way in which citizen science could participate in the project. Digital photos and the GPS coordinates of snakes, lizards, chameleons, tortoises, etc, were incorporated into the project database. When the butterfly atlas (SABCA) started, it also implemented a Virtual Museum. Both these Virtual Museums have continued to accept images after the formal completion of the projects, so that SARCA2 and SABCA2 will one day be able to hit the ground running.

Perhaps the choice of the word "museum" was unfortunate. For most people, the "museum" is the place where one or two specimens of each species on display. This certainly is what the "public space" in museums looks like. But the ADU's Virtual Museums replicate the "research space" in the museum. Every museum has a door with a sign "Private: Staff Only" – go through that door, and you find the real museum, with thousands of neatly labelled specimens, in bottles and drawers. There are frequently vast numbers of specimens of a single species. The ADU's Virtual Museums are like this. Our specimens are photographic images of animals rather than the real thing, hence the term "Virtual Museum" – as in the real museum, each of images has a label, giving date, species and location. Our Virtual Museums are delighted to have thousands of images of the same species, from throughout its range, because this is how we are able to build up atlas distribution maps.

The virtual museum for the butterfly atlas continues in partnership with LepSoc (Lepidopterists' Society of Africa). It is the largest of the ADU virtual museums, with nearly 24 000 records, and is expanding rapidly. The new MammalMAP project, the atlas of mammals throughout Africa, plans largely to base its distribution maps on records which are supported by photographs. This new project already has 5 300 records in its database.

The ADU supports eight virtual museums. Explore them by visiting vmus.adu.org.za. The protocol for uploading pictures is straightforward. You need to register as an ADU observer (you can do this on the virtual museum website) before you can do a "Data upload" – but if you have registered for any ADU project, you can immediately upload images. If you don't have a GPS there is a Google Map on which you can find the coordinates of the locality where you took the picture.

The ADU Virtual Museums are receiving almost 2000 records per month. If you have pictures of reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and even weaver nests, please upload them into the Virtual Museum, where they will be used to make a difference for conservation.

 
 

 
2012-02-14 Les Underhill 
A chance to make a tax-deductable donation before the end of February (South African Tax Year-End) 

Bank Cormorant: photo Richard SherlyThe Animal Demography Unit is recognized as one of the "earth stewardship" funding priorities of the University of Cape Town – the UCT website says: "Now in its 20th year, the ADU started out as a project-oriented group. It has maintained and expanded this focus on citizen scientists, encouraging them to become ambassadors for biodiversity. The unit is fast becoming the leading centre of research expertise in Statistical Ecology in Africa, with 22 doctoral students since 2002. This impressive track record now poses a further challenge of maintaining the ADU's momentum through building an early warning system to monitor biodiversity trends in both space and time."

We take this opportunity to invite all our supporters to become part of the community that directly supports and sustains the ADU in its triple mission: Citizen Science, Digital Biodiversity, Statistical Ecology. There is still time to contribute before the South African tax year ends on 29 February 2012. Donations to UCT are tax deductible in terms of Section 18A of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962. Please use the link below for the ways to give to the ADU at UCT (in the section "Please direct my support to:" click on the line "other" and enter "ADU"):

https://www.uct.ac.za/dad/giving/ways/online/

"UCT aspires to become a premier academic meeting point between South Africa, the rest of Africa and the world. Taking advantage of expanding global networks and our distinct vantage point in Africa, we are committed, through innovative research and scholarship, to grapple with the key issues of our natural and social worlds." UCT recognizes that the ADU is playing an important role in this aspiration. In the natural world, it is self-evident that we grapple with the issues of biodiversity conservation. What is less obvious is our role in the social world, where our citizen scientists reach tens of thousands of people through being ambassadors for biodiversity.

 
 

 
2012-01-26 Les Underhill 
Saturday 11 February 2012 – ADU 20th anniversary celebration, National Botanical Gardens, Pietermaritzburg 

ADU @ 20 logoFollowing the successful ADU 20th anniversary celebrations at Kirstenbosch on 11 June and Pretoria on 15 October, our next celebratory event takes place in KwaZulu-Natal, at the National Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg. The event will take place on Saturday 11 February 2012 in the Clivia Room. This is in fact our final 20th anniversary event.

The programme for the day involves ADU staff and supporters. It will start at 10h00 (tea/coffee from 09h30), we will have a picnic lunch together, and the programme will end around 15h00. This is an opportunity to interact with fellow volunteers from the full variety of ADU projects and to celebrate 20 years of ADU citizen science in South Africa. Our objective is to have a programme designed to provide feedback on our citizen science projects, and how the resulting data are used in science and conservation.

Registration is now open for this event. Go to http://20.adu.org.za to sign up. There is no charge and entrance to the gardens (if you do not have a BotSoc card) will be at the student rate (R8.00).

 
 

 
2011-12-13 Les Underhill 
CITIZEN SCIENCE: BUILDING AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM FOR BIODIVERSITY 

The 2012 UCT Summer School programme is now on the on the Department of Extra Mural Studies's Summer School website. One of the "courses" on offer is being presented by the ADU, and is called Citizen Science: Building an Early Warning System for Biodiversity. This course will be presented in the second of the two weeks of Summer School (23–27 January). The description of our course is in the paragraph below. Here is a list of all the courses being presented at Summer School next January, and the full details are on the Summer School website. The pdf of the brochure containing information on all the Summer School courses on offer next January is there too. So are the online registration forms.

ADU @ 20 logoCITIZEN SCIENCE: BUILDING AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM FOR BIODIVERSITY

The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) has been building digital biodiversity databases for twenty years. Most have been collected by "citizen scientists" in a variety of projects. About 16 million records of biodiversity cover mainly birds, reptiles, butterflies and mammals. This course, which forms part of the ADU's twentieth anniversary activities, looks at the lessons learnt over two decades and considers the potential role of citizen science in helping to build an early warning system for biodiversity. For each project we ask: "How have the data been used, especially in conservation applications?" "What difference does the participation of citizen scientists make to the project?" And ultimately, "How does this make a difference to the animals themselves?" Assembling the jigsaw puzzle of biodiversity out of the individual pieces of data contributed by citizen scientists requires intensive data analysis and interpretation. The first lecture looks at the way in which the ADU uses the citizen science database to interpret how and why the distributions and abundance of species have changed and what can be done about it. The second lecture considers the butterfly atlas and the "butterfly census weeks" developed to monitor trends in butterfly populations in South Africa. The third and fifth lectures focus on the involvement of citizens in bird monitoring, one related to the bird atlas and the other to bird ringing. The new mammal atlas which aims to compile information about mammals in the whole of Africa, including Madagascar, is highlighted in the fourth lecture.

LECTURES: 1. Citizen science – Les Underhill; 2. Butterfly atlas – Silvia Mecenero; 3. Bird atlas – Doug Harebottle; 4. Mammal atlas – Tali Hoffman; 5. Bird ringing – Dieter Oschadleus.

This information is also available here.

 
 

 
2011-12-04 Les Underhill 
Save the date: Saturday 11 February 2012, ADU 20th anniversary celebration, National Botanical Gardens, Pietermaritzburg 

Pietermaritzburg National Botanical GardensFollowing the successful ADU 20th anniversary celebrations at Kirstenbosch on 11 June and Pretoria on 15 October, our next celebratory event takes place in Kwazulu-Natal, at the National Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg. The event will take place on Saturday 11 February 2012 in the Clivia Room (pictured here). 

The programme for the day is taking shape, and involves ADU staff and supporters. It will start at 10h00 (tea/coffee from 09h30), we have a picnic lunch together, and we will end around 15h00. This is an opportunity to interact with fellow volunteers from the full variety of ADU projects and to celebrate 20 years of ADU citizen science in South Africa. Our objective is to have a programme designed to provide feedback on our citizen science projects, and how the resulting data are used in science and conservation.

Registration is now open for this event. Go to http://20.adu.org.za to sign up. There is no charge and entrance to the gardens (if you do not have a BotSoc card) will be at the student rate (R8-00).

 

 
 

 
2011-11-12 Les Underhill 
CITIZEN SCIENCE: BUILDING AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM FOR BIODIVERSITY 

The 2012 UCT Summer School programme is now on the on the Department of Extra Mural Studies's Summer School website. One of the "courses" on offer is being presented by the ADU, and is called Citizen Science: Building an Early Warning System for Biodiversity. This course will be presented in the second of the two weeks of Summer School (23–27 January). The description of our course is in the paragraph below. Here is a list of all the courses being presented at Summer School next January, and the full details are on the Summer School website. The pdf of the brochure containing information on all the Summer School courses on offer next January is there too. So are the online registration forms.

ADU @ 20 logoCITIZEN SCIENCE: BUILDING AN EARLY WARNING SYSTEM FOR BIODIVERSITY

The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) has been building digital biodiversity databases for twenty years. Most have been collected by "citizen scientists" in a variety of projects. About 16 million records of biodiversity cover mainly birds, reptiles, butterflies and mammals. This course, which forms part of the ADU's twentieth anniversary activities, looks at the lessons learnt over two decades and considers the potential role of citizen science in helping to build an early warning system for biodiversity. For each project we ask: "How have the data been used, especially in conservation applications?" "What difference does the participation of citizen scientists make to the project?" And ultimately, "How does this make a difference to the animals themselves?" Assembling the jigsaw puzzle of biodiversity out of the individual pieces of data contributed by citizen scientists requires intensive data analysis and interpretation. The first lecture looks at the way in which the ADU uses the citizen science database to interpret how and why the distributions and abundance of species have changed and what can be done about it. The second lecture considers the butterfly atlas and the "butterfly census weeks" developed to monitor trends in butterfly populations in South Africa. The third and fifth lectures focus on the involvement of citizens in bird monitoring, one related to the bird atlas and the other to bird ringing. The new mammal atlas which aims to compile information about mammals in the whole of Africa, including Madagascar, is highlighted in the fourth lecture.

LECTURE TITLES

1. Citizen science – Les Underhill

2. Butterfly atlas – Silvia Mecenero

3. Bird atlas – Doug Harebottle

4. Mammal atlas – Tali Hoffman

5. Bird ringing – Dieter Oschadleus

This information is also available here.

 
 

 
2011-10-22 Les Underhill 
Summer Digital Biodiversity Week: 29 October – 6 November 

ADU @ 20 logoOne of the last of the chain of events lined up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADU this year is our Summer Digital Biodiversity Week, from next Saturday 29 October, through to the following Sunday 6 November, so it includes two weekends. One of our main focuses during 2011 has been a celebration of the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, now totalling some 15 million records. The objective of the "digital biodiversity weeks" is to give all our citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data as we are able during the week. The winter biodiversity week ran from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 31 July. We will probably make them bi-annual events.

We want to try to involve as many of our existing citizen scientists as possible. We want to recruit new people to our citizen science team. We want to collect as much biodiversity data as possible: so we will try to count the total number of records entering the various databases, and try to determine the total number of different species we record. We want to encourage Team Citizen Science.

Sociable Weaver nest in PHOWNWe would be delighted if our citizen scientists participated in more than one project, and especially if they participated in one they had not been involved in before. So we want our bird atlasers to participate in VIMMA, the VIrtual Museum for Mammals, our bird ringers to take pictures of weavers' nests for PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, and our CAR and CWAC counters to give bird atlasing a try, etc. We particularly want to grow awareness and participation in the growing family of virtual museums: see http://vmus.adu.org.za. A new project, which was launched during the Winter Digital Biodiversity Week was MyBirdPatch, and if you have not yet got involved in this please give it a try.

This is also a great opportunity to try to expand the citizen science team. The best way to do this is to invite someone new to join you atlasing, ringing, counting, virtual museuming, ... and to show them the project protocols – for example, exactly how to go about bird atlasing.

Ultimately, the goal of all the data collection is to have impact on biodiversity conservation. The wealth of data and information contributed by our citizen scientists, collated and curated at the ADU, and analysed by our students and staff and by many other people, has improved biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Our 20-year celebrations honour you, the citizen scientist. Thank you for your on-going support from all of us at the ADU. Together we are making a difference!

 
 

 
2011-09-17 Les Underhill 
ADU 20th anniversary celebrations: Gauteng event in Pretoria, Saturday 15 October 

ADU at 20 logoWe held a very successful ADU 20th anniversary celebration event at Kirstenbosch in June. The next event in this series will be in Pretoria on Saturday 15 October. The venue for the Gauteng "open day" is the Education Centre in the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens.

The Animal DemoSouthern Ground Hornbillgraphy Unit was established at UCT in 1991, then as the Avian Demography Unit, with SABAP1 and SAFRING as the two main projects. Additional citizen scientist projects followed: CWAC (Coordinated Waterbird Counts), BIRP (Birds In Reserves Project) and CAR (Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts). These have remained part of the ADU's ongoing, long-term, citizen-science monitoring programmes and have collected millions of records over the last 20 years.

Due to the ADU's 'atlasing' expertise, other animal groups were included under the atlasing umbrella. The Southern African Frog Atlas Project (SAFAP) was completed in 2004, and the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SARCA) the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA) are being completed in 2011. SABAP2 started in 2007, and has been supplemented recently with the MyBirdPatch project.

The ADU is also involved in numerous other research projects and the tally of successful PhD students in the past decade alone is currently 22. Our Virtual Museums have proved popular and successful and contain 31 000 georeferenced images of butterflies, reptiles, frogs, mammals, dragonflies, weaver nests and trees.

The participation and involvement of citizen scientists has enhanced the wealth of data and information stored at the ADU and increased out impact on biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Our 20-year celebrations honour you, the citizen scientist. Thank you for your on-going support from all of us at the ADU. Together we are making a difference!

2oth cakeOn 15 October, the programme will include short and snappy presentations on most of these projects, by ADU staff and our partner organisations. We will start at 10h00 and have a picnic lunch together, and end around 15h00. Our objective is to have a programme designed to provide feedback on our citizen science projects, and how the resulting data are used in science and conservation. This is an opportunity to interact with fellow volunteers from the full variety of ADU projects and to celebrate 20 years of ADU citizen science in South Africa.

Registration is open for this event. If you have not already registered, go to http://20.adu.org.za, and click on "register" at the top to sign up. There is no charge and entrance to the gardens (if you do not have a BotSoc card) will be at the student rate. We are grateful to SANBI for enabling this use of their facilities.In this unusual aerial view of the gardens, the Education Centre is in the centre at the top, nestling within the little group of trees in the grassland (and the restuarant is in the bottom right hand corner!).

 
 

 
2011-08-01 Les Underhill 
First results: Winter Digital Biodiversity Week – 23– 31 July 

Another of the chain of events lined up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADU this year was the Winter Digital Biodiversity Week, which finished yesterday, 31 July. Here are some first results; there is lots of data collected which still needs to be submitted.

SABAP2 atlasers submitted 472 checklists with a total of 22 963 records. The number of new pentads atlased was 42. This was in spite of weather over most of the country for most of the period which was not particularly conducive to atlasing! There does not appear to be a lot of old data in notebooks, but a handful people told us of their backlogs, but were unable to clear it last week. At least we have sensitized everyone to the fact that we don't mind how long it takes to get the data submitted.

There were 405 submissions to the various virtual museums, plus a bulk submission of 1639 records from the Cape Leopard Trust, our partner in VIMMA, the mammal VM. The weaver colonies for PHOWN are summarized on the weaver website, http://weavers.adu.org.za. So far, there are records for nine species, with 16 submissions of Cape Weavers and 14 of Southern Masked Weavers.

MyBirdPatch, the new small-scale bird monitoring project, launched during the Digital Biodiversity Week, attracted 34 observers, who registered 44 "MyBirdPatches", and made 86 checklists totalling 1672 records.

The CAR project held its winter count on Saturday. Results have still to arrive. A lot of ringers were out as well during the week, but likewise, the statistics of their activities will take a week or two to compile.

One of our main focuses of the ADU's 20th anniverary is a celebration of the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, totalling some 15 million records. The objective of our Digital Biodiversity Weeks is to give all our citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data as we are able during the week. The Winter Digital Biodiversity Week ran from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 31 July. There will be another in early summer, which will span the actual date of the 20th anniversary. The dates for the Summer Digital Biodiversity Week are 29 October to 6 November.

Other events still in the pipeline are the "Citizen Science Day" at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens on 15 October, and a week of lectures at the UCT Summer School in January.

 
 

 
2011-06-28 Les Underhill 
Digital Biodiversity Week – 23–31 July  

ADU at 20 logo We have a chain of events lined up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADU this year. One of our main focuses is a celebration of the participation and involvement of citizen scientists in building our digital biodiversity databases, totalling some 15 million records. The objective of our "digital biodiversity week" is to give all our citizen scientists a chance to become a community with the objective of collecting and submitting as much biodiversity data as we are able during the week. The winter biodiversity week runs from Saturday 23 July to Sunday 31 July, so it includes two weekends. There will be another in early summer, which will span the actual date of the 20th anniversary. The dates for the summer digital biodiversity week are 29 October to 6 November.

We want to try to involve as many of our existing citizen scientists as possible. We want to recruit new people to our citizen science team. We want to collect as much biodiversity data as possible: so we will try to count the total number of records entering the various databases, and try to determine the total number of different species we record. We want to encourage Team Citizen Science.

Ringers in actionWe would be delighted if our citizen scientists participated in more than one project, and especially if they participated in one they had not been involved in before. So we want our bird atlasers to participate in VIMMA, the VIrtual Museum for Mammals, our bird ringers to take pictures of weavers' nests for PHOWN, PHOtos of Weaver Nests, and our CAR counters to give bird atlasing a try, etc. We particularly want to grow awareness and participation in the growing family of virtual museums: see http://vmus.adu.org.za.

This is also a great opportunity to try to expand the citizen science team. The best way to do this is to invite someone new to join you atlasing, ringing, counting, virtual museuming, ... and to show them the project protocols – for example, exactly how to go about bird atlasing.

Ultimately, the goal of all the data collection is to have impact on biodiversity conservation. The wealth of data and information contributed by our citizen scientists, collated and curated at the ADU, and analysed by our students and staff and by many other people, has improved biodiversity conservation in southern Africa. Our 20-year celebrations honour you, the citizen scientist. Thank you for your on-going support from all of us at the ADU. Together we are making a difference!

 
 

 
2011-01-20 Les Underhill 
2011 – the year of the ADU's 20th anniversary 

ADU @ 20The year 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the Animal Demography Unit, or the ADU as it is known in the vernacular. It was towards the end of 1991 that the University Research Committee formally approved the establishment of the ADU as a research group at the University of Cape Town. Even at that time, achieving this recognition was something of an achievement in its own right.

At the start of the anniversary year we steal a glance backwards. The list of publications, graduated students and conference presentations from 2010 alone runs to six pages (137KB). Of the six students who graduated, four were PhDs at UCT, one was a PhD at the University of Bristol in the UK, and one was an MSc at the University of Wageningen. Looking farther back in time, the list of postgraduate students (11KB) supervised or co-supervised in the ADU in the first decade of the 21st century runs to 28 students: 18 PhDs and 10 MScs. The pdfs of most of the PhDs are available on the ADU website (scroll down to graduated PhDs).

A series of anniversary events will unfold during the year. The first major event is the SAFRING/SABAP2 conference at Barberspan Bird Sanctuary from Wednesday 9 March to the following Wednesday 16 March. The "conference" will take place over the weekend from Friday evening 11 March to Sunday afternoon 13 March, but everyone is invited to arrive and start atlasing or ringing from the Wednesday beforehand and stay until the Wednesday afterwards.

Among the celebrations, there will also be two "citizen science biodiversity weeks": 23–31 July and from 29 October–6 November. This second period includes the actual 20th anniversary date! These biodiversity weeks will involve all the ADU projects, from the birds to the butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, reptiles, trees and weavers, through the Virtual Museums. Diarize the dates – details will unfold.

 
 

 
2010-09-26 Les Underhill 
The Animal Demography Unit: September 2010 

A noteworthy recent development in the ADU has been the upgrading of the Virtual Museum (VM) software. The key change is that photographs are now uploaded via the internet, rather than being sent by email. This has enabled new VMs to be initiated and old ones to be continued with renewed vigour: Butterflies, Dragonflies plus Damselflies, Frogs, Mammals, Reptiles and Weaver Nests. The VM for mammals is called VIMMA (Virtual Museum for Mammals) and is initiated in conjunction with the Cape Leopard Trust. The VM for weaver nests is called PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests). The VM software is expandable to include other concepts and we welcome suggestions.

Between ADU staff, students and our research associates, the final tally of papers and chapters in books for 2009 was 64. Three of the postgraduate students graduated last year, two with PhDs and one with an MSc. The details of paper and postgraduates are here (pdf 119KB). The list of papers and graduates so far in 2010 is here (pdf 61KB). A total of 25 students have gained PhDs or MScs through ADU supervision (or cosupervision) since 2000, the students and thesis titles are listed here (pdf 11KB). In September 2010, there are four postdocs in the ADU, and 10 PhDs and five MScs. Two PhDs have been submitted for examination.

Between us, we presented a total of 22 papers and posters at the 7th International Penguin Conference in Boston, US, and the First World Seabird Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The authors and titles are here.

During August, the CAR project produced a booklet which describes 12 practical suggestions which can be implemented by landowners to conserve birds on farmland, and discusses these in relation to some key bird species such as Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan and White Stork. The booklet is in English: Farming for the Future (2.5MB) and in Afrikaans: Boer vir die Toekoms.

 
 

 
2009-12-07 Les Underhill 
Animal Demography Unit in 2009 

At the end of academic year 2009, it is the appropriate time to reflect on progress in the ADU in the year.

Between staff, students and our research associates, we published 58 papers and chapters in books. This number is still growing, because some papers with 2009 datelines will only get published in 2010.

With Danish funding, partnered with SANBI, we produced a 16-page booklet entitiled Birds and environmental change: building an early warning system in South Africa. Delegates to the Copenhagen climate change conference will each receive a copy of the booklet.

Two ADU students, Newi Makhado and Mariette Wheeler, completed PhDs, and will graduate on 14 December 2009. Diane Southey, whose MSc I co-supervised with William Bond in the Department of Botany as lead supervisor and with Guy Midgley at SANBI as yet another co-supervisor, graduated with distinction in June 2009.

As we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it is worth reflecting that the numbers of students who have gained PhDs or MScs through ADU supervision (or cosupervision) since 2000 are 13 and 10, respectively (and there is one PhD being examined). Currently there are three postdocs, 12 PhDs and two MScs having ADU supervision or co-supervision.

ADU projects continued and made good progress. For example, at the start of 2009, 18 months into SABAP2, 412 atlasers had submitted at least one checklist, 3140 pentads had been visted at least once, the total number of checklists was 10414 and the number of records was 577034. Eleven months later, on 30 November, these values were 645 atlases, 5687 pentads, 26106 checklists and 1411432 records. The rate of accumulation of SABAP2 data exceeds that of SABAP1. The SABAP2 website updates with incoming data every five minutes.

Other key projects on the go and making good progress include the butterfly atlas (SABCA), the bird monitoring projects CAR (large terrestrial species, mainly in agricultural landscapes), CWAC (waterbirds) and SAFRING (bird ringing). The reptile atlas (SARCA) is on its final lap.

Huge developments were made on the ADU websites. By the end of November, the databases of all projects were consolidated onto one computer at the ADU, and all websites were run through the URL adu.org.za. This enabled the development of the Unified Data Portal (http://udp.adu.org.za) making it possible to gain access simultaneously to ADU data for all projects for a locality or for a species.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the ADU in 2009: project sponsors, staff, students, colleagues, and especially the citizen scientists who have helped build the ADU&slquo;S "digital biodiversity" database.  
 

 
2007-12-20 Les Underhill 
From ADU to ADU 

From 1 January 2008, the Avian Demography Unit (or the ADU for short) will become the Animal Demography Unit (still the ADU). What prompted this? Ever since the ADU initiated the frog atlas project a decade ago in 1998, there have been issues with the name Avian Demography Unit – “Why is the Avian Demography Unit doing the frog atlas?” This inconsistency has recently been heightened by our involvement with projects on reptiles (Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment, effectively the reptile atlas), and with butterflies (Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment, the butterfly atlas), and with five postgraduate students doing PhD and MSc projects on seals, one on rare mammals in Namibia and even one on dwarf chameleons.

Although the academic world thrives on these kinds of delightful contradictions, there is no need to perpetuate them for ever. We will thus change our name to be more representative of what we do. We also change our host department at the University of Cape Town, resolving another anachronism, moving from the Department of Statistical Sciences to the Department of Zoology.