Citizen Science is Seriously Cool

Recently, the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) hosted a Citizen Science Tools Workshop focussed on water, in Mpophomeni.  70 people attended, some of whom were scientists, others were students, representatives from school enviro clubs, members of MCG and Enviro Champs from Mpophomeni and from the neighbouring community of KwaMevana. There were even visitors from Sweden.

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The purpose of the workshop was to learn about and try out six different Citizen Science tools that are used to test and teach about the environment with focus on water. Liz Taylor of DUCT gave a brief introduction of the day’s festivities followed by Ntombentle Mtambo of Mpophomeni Conservation Group (MCG). Ntombentle spoke about preserving the essential resource that is water and suggested various ways to save water in our own homes. She highlighted the importance of practical, active learning and motivated the youth to hlonipha – to respect themselves and their surroundings.  “We are not teachers, we are co-teachers. You children need to come forward to teach others. We can learn from each other! Together we can make a difference, you have the power. It is not good just knowing the theory in your mind, you must practice it to understand more. You must smell it and touch it and try it! Do it practically and learn! Today we are going to be citizen scientists!”

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Charlene Russell of WESSA Eco Schools described Mpophomeni as an environmental education and biodiversity hotspot. She encouraged learners to enter their environmental efforts into various science projects and Expos.  Lindokuhle Sithole of EcoWonders said “It is great to come together as people who are passionate about the environment and learn more about what we can do to preserve it for future generations”.  Eco Wonders are a group of youth that reports and follows up on water wastage in KwaMevane.

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The participants were then divided into six groups to take on the role of being Citizen Scientists for the day – rotating between six different demonstration stations. Citizen Science means ordinary citizens like you and me can participate in conducting scientific research.   “What a great day, I learnt a lot too. It would be good to have these activities more often.” said Nkululeko Mdladla.

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At the first station Baba Cele was assisting the participants test out water samples of different levels of turbidity using the clarity tube.  Samples of water from Mpophomeni streams ranging from really dirty to cleaner were used as examples.  Everyone enjoyed peering into the tube.  Tutu Zuma asked “How does the water get dirty? It starts in your homes.”

Mpophomeni Conservation Group - Water research day -Baba Cele explaining how to use a turbidity meter

At another Bonisile Mnguni and Sthe Nkomo were sharing the challenges and general experiences as River Care team workers clearing river banks of invasive alien vegetation and rubbish. After their short presentation, everyone picked up litter in the area surrounding them.

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Thandanani Luvuno and Thululeni Nxumalo were stationed at the drama stage where participants were briefed on the script and were given roles to play. The drama was intended create awareness around the dangers of not taking out your rubbish on time for the municipal collection and the dumping of household waste in storm water drains and sewerage manholes. It was about basic sanitation – as in what actually is supposed to go into your toilet bowl. My Andersson and Karolina Lidsell had their big acting break playing the very important truck driver! “We believe that theatre is a very good way to engage people in society issues and all participants seem to very much enjoy this station,” they commented afterwards.

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Charlene Russell had created a virtual river to demonstrate MiniSASS (South African Scoring System).  The health of the river was calculated by looking at which Invertebrates could be found and working out a total from their sensitivity scores.

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Although some of the learners had done MiniSASS in the rivers before, this was a quick way of demonstrating the method – and of course, MANY more invertebrates could be found that are usually in the Mpophomeni streams.

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Ayanda Lipheyana shared his experiences as an MSEP Enviro Champ and showed participants how to fill in data collection sheets to report surcharging manholes and burst pipes.  Lindiwe Mkhize of MCG really enjoyed meeting new people and hearing about the work that they do.

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Ayanda Khweli and Fresh Ngubo illustrated the differences between a healthy river and a contaminated one using the Enviro picture building game.  Mondli Mazeka of African Conservation Trust said “We enjoyed the activities a lot.”

Discovering new issues in the picture

The overcast weather did not get in the way of the activities and it was an enjoyable experience being a Citizen Scientist for a day. MCG hopes it does not stop here and becomes a regular activity for Mpophomeni residents in the future.   Hope Makhanye said “I can see that people are not always the problem. we have people in places where things are good and people in places where things are bad. It’s the actions that people do that cause the problems. If we do good, good things happen.”

Thanks to Rotary PMB who sponsored the occasion.

MCG plans to host more community learning and sharing days in future.

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2 thoughts on “Citizen Science is Seriously Cool

  1. You rock Mphop! You make me so proud to be from KwaZulu Natal, and to have got to know some of you just a little bit when I lived, all too briefly, in your area a few years back. So wish I was there to be sharing in, and applauding, your efforts. I wish you all well. Liz Gow

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