GUEST POST by Tamsin Caruana
Using Citizen Science to help Nature on the Maltese Islands
The concept has been around for a long time with the earliest example recorded in December 1900 to study bird migration in America and encourage people to count bird species instead of killing them.
Citizen science can be used by environmental organisations to help protect wildlife whilst also involving and educating citizens about the importance of nature in our lives.
I would really like to encourage people in Malta to get involved with nature and to feel empowered about protecting it so I made a list of citizen science initiatives I know about!
And remember – ANYONE can be a citizen scientist! All you need is a sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural world.
Current Citizen Science Projects in Malta
The National Museum of Natural History is collecting data of all wild mammals seen in the Maltese islands between 2020-2022. This will culminate in the publication of an Atlas of Maltese Mammals, the first of its kind for the Maltese Islands.
The terrestrial species that will be recorded are: Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis), Algerian Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus) Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus) Sicilian Shrew (Crocidura sicula calypso), Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus), Black Ship Rat (Rattus rattus), House Mouse (Mus domesticus), Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and 12 bat species.
Your sightings (dead or alive) along with the exact location of the sighting and where possible, photographs of the specimen, will help in building up a better picture on the status and distribution of our mammalian fauna.
All contributions will be duly acknowledged in the publication.
During past events bird experts were present at popular birdwatching spots like the woodland of Buskett to help identify and provide information about birds that visit our islands during the Autumn Bird Migration.
Observing migrating birds of prey and witnessing a sky full of raptors in search of a wintering spot is a truly magical experience!
The main goal of the Europe-wide annual event is to raise awareness about the need to save migratory birds, their breeding areas, protect them at stopovers on their migration routes and safeguard their wintering areas.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Click here to see Malta’s reported numbers in previous event
Project Akustika by local NGO Greenhouse aims to improve local knowledge of bat species within the Maltese community by asking volunteers to help collect data on what bat species are present, their distribution and status through long-term monitoring.
Bats are important because they are significant bio-indicators of ecosystem health (as they are the top predators of their food chain), they control various agricultural pests (they consume flies, moths, beetles and mosquitoes), and have highly specialised evolutionary adaptations.
The project involves carrying out acoustic bat surveys using a bat detector to record bat activity in Malta’s urban areas. All activities are carried out under license and permit from the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) by qualified bat ecologists, with the assistance of volunteers.
Contact email@example.com for information about the project which should be re-starting in Autumn 2021 (subject to Covid restrictions).
Spot the Jellyfish & Spot the Alien Fish by The International Ocean Institute & Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights
Professor Alan Deidun, Director of the International Ocean Institute, created the ‘Spot the Jellyfish’ campaign to help increase awareness about the local diversity of jellyfish species to supply useful data to local marine scientists as well as provide warnings to tourist authorities through a citizen science approach.
Professor Deidun and Arnold Sciberras also created the ‘Spot the Alien’ campaign to compile reports of marine alien species (non native species which can be invasive) spotted in Maltese waters by citizen scientists. This should allow marine researchers to study how wide spread these species are in Maltese waters and whether they are causing any harm to native species.
Spot the Jellyfish – Report Your Sightings
Spot the Alien Fish & Non-Fish – Report Your Sightings
You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharklab-Malta are a local NGO who are working hard on researching the biology and ecology of sharks, rays and skates that live in Maltese waters. They also try to conserve the species by running a recovery and release programme of local oviparous species and are on a mission to increase awareness and educate people about why these species need to be protected.
Sharklab-Malta’s website provides extensive information about sharks, skates and rays and sightings can be reported on the links provided below:
Tamsin Caruana has been curious about nature ever since she was very young and protecting it has now become her main passion in life. She has a BA Hons in Geography (University of Malta) and a MSc in Protected Area & Countryside Management (Birkbeck University of London). She spent 11 years working in London where she gained volunteer experience with various environmental organisations. She has since returned to Malta becoming involved with various eNGOs and worked as Events Officer for Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park for the last 2 years. She is now looking for her next challenge but in the meantime is doing what she can to raise awareness about the importance of the natural world!