Guiding Bio-indicator collections

It’s no secret, environmental changes are apparent the world over. But what drives these changes is often more secretive. While some change may be due to natural fluctuations, others are due to human presence. With changes often happening over long periods and over broad areas, long-term and large-scale monitoring is required to document and understand the changes. A key focus of Ongava Research Centre is to collect long-term information that can be used to monitor change. This is the purpose of ORC’s Bio-Indicator Programme.

In the beginning, we soon discovered how hard it was to find information on how to start, and that spurred our idea to write a guidebook, entitled Bio-Indicators for Beginners – A Field Sampling Guide

I, perhaps self-deprecatingly, refer to it as Bio-indicators for Dummies. In reality, it is a book designed to inspire lay people and aspiring scientists to get involved in bio-indicator research, and to go out and contribute to a Namibia-wide bio-indicator repository system. Throughout the book we have detailed sampling protocols for different  types of samples (whole animals, bones and teeth, hair, faeces, water, soil, grass and seeds) to standardise sampling methods. We’ve also made sure to refer to more detailed studies and give examples of how these data collection programs have had real-world benefits, for example on how researchers study echidna health just through looking at their poo, and on how fisheries management is being informed using citizen science.

For over two years we have studied and tested methods to reduce collection and storage costs and record all the lessons learnt. Our methods are designed to be easily and cheaply replicated to standardise the collection of samples across Namibia and to develop a national repository.  We look forward to our book being used widely, and to collaborating with groups across the country to see this nationwide plan become a reality.

Happy reading!