Guest Post by Vanessa Eyng
The Amazon biodiversity is impressive. Once it comes to fish’s biodiversity, it is even more impressive. The amount of species in the Amazon is huge. The relation between local communities and fishes creates cultural patterns, implies in specifics knowledge and skills, generates income, besides being the fishes the main source of protein for these communities. All this biodiversity is spreed in seven countries and it is connected through water. Rivers, fishes and its migration patterns show us that. Fishes can go from one lake to another, back and forth. And also can go from the river source to the mouth. Some catfishes are responsible for the longest migration known. And to migrate, fishes rely on rivers connectivity. These migration fishes represent around 80% of the commercial fisheries of Amazon. But the data available to understand the fisheries and the migration patterns is not representative for the entire area. The scale of the Amazon represents a specific challenge, even more with a series of major infrastructure projects planned or already implemented in the Amazon.
Citizen science is a growing field, with potential to promote a closer dialogue with citizen demands and concerns, through participatory methodologies. Its approach, developing replicable technologies, could collaborate with large scale monitoring projects, such as the Amazon. And local people participation in conservation projects have been determinant to the success of these strategies, respecting the fact that their livelihood depends on it.
With these approaches, the project Citizen Science for the Amazon put together inhabitants, researchers and students from different parts of the Amazon. All of them with unique environmental knowledge and specific conservation concerns. Through an app, named Ictio, the project goal was to test this new technology, creating a network that could use the data generated in sustainable management and conservation projects. Looking at the big picture, the project seeks to understand how fish migrations work in the Amazon basin and what environmental factors influence these migrations. In combination with the citizen science approach, it helps to fill in information gaps, drastically reduces the cost of gathering this information, and empowers citizens as guardians of their aquatic ecosystems.
The project Citizen Science for the Amazon was implemented in 15 sites, each of them using specific methodologies. The communities were present to app Ictio, used it and discussed the data generated. Three meetings brought together users from different locations, creating a space to share knowledge, discuss conservation strategies and also meet with each other! Until December 2019, 224 users from uploaded 3,092 observation lists, registering 24.000 fishes and 994 tons of fishes! These numbers are from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, in a scale basin effort without precedents.
The project is worked to develop a network of partners from different countries, https://www.amazoniacienciaciudadana.org/espa%C3%B1ol/socios/ , joining expertise from of civil society organizations, government entities, universities, research centers and foundations, and other collaborative networks.