Three Days Citizen Scientist Training Program of River Dolphin Conservation Project

July 13, 2022

The concept of Citizen Scientists, particularly in scientific research, is gathering steam around the world. Citizen scientists in conservation and science-driven environmental research projects are a relatively new concept in Nepal, where people from various disciplines help collect, analyze, and interpret data. It has multifaceted benefits because it allows for the collection of real data from the field, the development of human resources at the local level, and, most importantly, the acquisition of reliable, authentic, and credible information that adds value to research. Their participation in research has become a means of encouraging curiosity and a better understanding of science, while also allowing for unprecedented interaction between professional scientists and the general public.

Three days of citizen scientist training for the project entitled “Conservation of Ganges River Dolphin through the involvement of local youths as a citizen scientist in Koshi River, Eastern, Nepal” funded by The Rufford Foundation was organized from 13- 15 June 2022 at Koshi (the project site). The training program drew a total of 20 participants, mostly students, and youths from various organizations. The main objective of this training program was to improve their capacity and enhance their ability in commencing the research of River Dolphin and utilize their skill in the project activities.

The training program was concluded in three days. In the first two days, theoretical information covering many aspects of conservation, dolphin survey and methodology and their relevance was presented while on the third day; the participants were taken to the field visit for the practical implementation of information and knowledge acquired in the theoretical session. Apart from this, local expert on biodiversity conservation was outsourced from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) and local conservation organization where they shared their experience and guidance to the participants.

The participant’s participation throughout the entire course and their confidence were laudable, as they are now able to carry forward the information when required. Likewise, the participants were well informed about the importance of River Dolphin, and their role to balance the entire freshwater aquatic ecosystem while also adding information regarding the different standard methodology followed for the dolphin survey.

As the program progressed, the participants were introduced to the equipment such as GPS, digital camera, binoculars and telescope as well as the procedure for using them during the dolphin survey and the digital tool- Kobo for questionnaire survey. They were also given information on assessing the physio-chemical parameters of water. Moving forward, the trainee was allowed to handle the equipment independently, identify the problems encountered while using or handling equipment and collect feedback.

The third day was particularly focused on the practical application of the knowledge, for which the participants were taken on a field trip to the nearby Koshi River. During the field session, all participants were given hands-on experience with the methods they learned during the first two days of training (theoretical session). The participants were allowed to use the equipment independently, fill out the data sheet, and learn about the River Dolphin habitat.

The three-day citizen scientist training workshop was a success in terms of improving their abilities and engaging them in research and project activities. These types of training should be provided for youth members in order to inspire stewardship and positive energy to actively engage and work in the conservation field.

Participants in the citizen scientists training program