Citizen Science Project

Mapping the Flora and Fauna of the Qatari Desert:

a Qatar Natural History Group Citizen Science Initiative 


 


QNHG was established in 1977 and since then it has introduced its numerous members to the natural beauty of the desert through monthly talks and field trips given by professionals in the fields of Ecology, Biology, Archaeology and Botany. This year QNHG is making a significant contribution to enhance the knowledge of Qatar's Biodiversity by initiating a citizen science project to map the flora and fauna of the Qatari desert. The launch of the project was in October 2015.

 
Citizen Science, or participatory action research is defined as scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, in collaboration with, or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. In recent years, many academic institutions around the world depend on data collected by citizens to advance their understanding of various research topics such as amphibian, insect and bird migration, water and air quality, and biodiversity library creation to name a few.  
 
QNHG's purpose is to serve the best interests of the wider community in Qatar and as such it will introduce the global citizen science phenomenon to take local roots.
 
Our goal is to collect data on the biodiversity of Qatar allowing for a better understanding and enriched knowledge of the species that evolve on and inhabit the peninsula such as species distribution, population size, behavior, threats, etc. The data collected will be centrally and securely deposited by Dr. Chatziefthimiou and Dr. Lesales to the scientific representative of QNHG’s Committee Board who will make them available to researchers of the Scientific Committee. 
 
Our scientific committee is comprised of members belonging to the following entities: Qatar Ministry of Environment, University of Wisconsin Marinette, Marine Research Foundation, Qatar University, Qatar Birds Records Committee. The scientists are conducting active research on the fauna and flora of deserts with a particular focus on aquatic and terrestrial environments of Qatar. Species of investigation include: dugongs, sea-turtles, lizards, hedgehogs, birds, and desert-adapted plants. 
 
 
Who can participate?

Although this citizen science initiative was designed for the QNHG members, naturalists in the general population of Qatar are also invited to become Nature's sentinels, reporting observations during trips in the desert, the sea or walks in a park. This citizen science project can also be adopted in the classroom as a student science project in collaboration with the QNHG scientific representative. 
 
What species can be reported?
In our project we aim to map indigenous and desert-adapted terrestrial and marine species of organisms, as well as migratory birds. Thus only sightings in natural environments will be gathered. Plants and animals from Souqs’ pet and ornamental plant stores will not be accepted. 
 
 
 
How to report observations?
An observation is the what, where, and when of a finding in nature. It is very important to follow a protocol to ensure the quality of the data collected so that the information is useful to the community.
 
Species: (if known – if not, pictures will be decisive to help with identification)
 
Location: GPS Coordinates or area with description.
Smartphones can give you the coordinates of your location through mobile apps such as Google maps. You can also turn on the geotag feature of the camera on your smartphone so that coordinates and time are automatically embedded in the digital image (EXIF data).
 
Date and Time: DDMMYY and local time in 24hr formats.
 
Pictures: Photographs are very useful to help confirm the species observed. As many as possible, from different angles of view are very helpful because there are very similar species and some details can be visible in one photo but not in another.
Photos attached to observations should be of the individual observed at the time of the observation.
If you record an observation of a plant but could not take any picture at the time, and you go back a day later to take a picture, please add a new observation for the picture, because it represents the plant at a different point in time.
 
Other data: Climatic conditions (temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction…), habitat, behavior of the animal when observed, size (measured if possible for turtles), report identification tag if any.
 
 
 
A. Terrestrial habitats:
 
1. Rocky desert

2. Sand dunes


3. Valley: wadi/ natural depression:rawdat



B. Marine habitats:

1. Sabkha


2. Inter-tidal

 

3. Sub-tidal


4. Mangroves


5. Sandy beach and Open Gulf waters



Example of Report Card for the following sighting

 

 Name of Observer : AC  Contact : XXXX-XXXX, AC@yahoo
 
Species observed : Hawksbill turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata

 Date : Thursday July 23, 2015  Time : 6:04 pm
 Location : Fuwairit beach  GPS Coord. (lat. long.) N 26°1’21.3’’  E 51°22’46.0’’
 
Miscellaneous (Climatic conditions, habitat, behavior of the animal when observed, size, ID tag if any)
Temperature: 32.5 °C
% Relative Humidity: 77.5
 
The animal was dead at the time of the sighting. The decomposition was somewhat advanced and it emanated an odor. Pictures were taken to determine the actual size with one flip flop (size 40/female) as a measure of reference. There were no tags visible on the animal. The habitat is sandy beach in front of a lagoon protected from a strip of sand from the Arabian Gulf waters. The location is to the South of the Turtle Nesting grounds. 
 
 Pictures:
 
 

All the above picture kindly provided by Dr.  A. Chatziefthimiou

Code of conduct

Volunteers are expected to comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations in Qatar, and should adhere with the following code of conduct. This helps assure that all activities conducted by QNHG members are lawful and ethical.


  • Keep your visit brief and quiet.
  • Moving slowly permits wildlife to become accustomed to human presence. Never let your presence cause the animal any distress. In the sign of any distress, pull back.
  • Do not entice a wild animal with food (baiting).
  • Keep your distance, especially from nests, dens, and other animals; never separate young from their parents.
  • Replace any rocks or logs overturned when searching for aquatic or terrestrial animals.
  • Wild animals should never be handled, except in cases of emergency.
  • Leave wild plants in their natural habitat and do not pick or uproot them unless they are to be destroyed through development.
  • Desert roses and fossils should not be removed from the desert.
  • Never disturb the habitat of endangered, rare, uncommon, or threatened plants or animals, particularly during reproductive cycles or breeding seasons.
  • Whenever possible stay on existing roads and trails to avoid trampling, and reduce the disturbance to wildlife and their habitats.
  • Carry a litter bag and carry out any trash, even if it isn't your own.
Resource to help identify the species in Qatar

Qatar e-Nature :
http://www.enature.qa/
 
Qatar iNaturalist
https://www.inaturalist.org/places/qatar
 
 
Send your observations and photographs to:
 
mapflorafauna@qnhg.org
 
(to be completed)

How can I get help identifying what I saw?
You can send the pictures of the unknown species, and volunteers and scientists will be able to help with the identification. You can also use the Qatar e-nature website and/or application to identify the species yourself.

Why do I need to include my name and contact info?
Identification of the observers is important to insure the quality of the data collected. In addition, in some cases, scientists might need to get in touch with observers to acquire additional details on a record.


 

For more info on this project, please contact: Dr. Chatziefthimiou and Dr .Lesales at the following e-mail address:  mapflorafauna@qnhg.org