Hundreds of students from the four cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad are coming together to document how climate change is impacting trees, birds and butterflies around them in urban areas. Using mobile applications as part of a citizen science project by Mumbai-based social enterprise Ladybird Environmental Consulting, they are trying to engage around 3,000 students across 40 schools in the cities.
With the help of WWF, they have tied up with ten schools in Kolkata whose students will click photographs and take notes on the changes they see in the urban bio-diversity landscape. For trees they would collect data on the pattern of the fall of their leaves, fruiting and flowering seasons – all indicators of the impact of climate change.
“All this information will be collated for a period of five years during which we will have substantial data to understand the impact of climate change in the four cities,” Dr V Shubhalaxmi, who has conceptualised the project, told PTI here. All the data and images collected would be uploaded by the students on the three apps – iBirds, iButterflies and iTrees – which would go live on Android devices from tomorrow.
Easy to find in cities, birds, butterflies and trees are known as indicators of climate change as they are among the most affected by any changes in the climate. West Bengal Biodiversity Board’s chairman Dr Ashok Sanyal said Kolkata alone has around 89 species of butterflies, 400 types of plants and 40 species of birds.
“We need to conserve our biodiversity as it is disappearing fast,” he said. Besides school students, the mobile app would also be useful for anyone interested in connecting with nature. It would have all details and photographs to help a mobile user identify 50 common species of birds, butterflies and trees.
Schools participating in the ‘Urban iNaturewatch Challenge’ have made it a part of their students’ project work asking students to give one hour every week in exploring nature around them. Students would work either during nature trails within the city or explore biodiversity near their school or home.
As students are not allowed to carry mobiles in school campuses, the teachers would help them with a device dedicated for the project. Although amateurs would generate the primary data using the app but it would be validated only by experts. Shubhalaxmi, who has been working as a nature educator for many years, said the idea came to her after realising that the next generation learners are glued to technology and gadgets.
“No one wants to take field biology as a career. We want to nurture young talent through this initiative,” she said adding that the project aligns with UN’s Decade of Biodiversity (2011-2020).