VM projects currently available:

  BirdPix logo    BOP logo    DungBeetleMAP logo    EchinoMAP logo    FishMAP logo    FrogMAP logo    LacewingMAP logo    LepiMAP logo    MammalMAP logo    MushroomMAP logo    OdonataMAP logo    OrchidMAP logo    PHOWN logo    ReptileMAP logo    ScorpionMAP logo    SpiderMAP logo    TreeMAP logo 

Species information projects:

  FrogMAP  |   Weaver research  |   ADDO (African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online)

Other Citizen Science projects managed by or in partnership with the FIAO:

  AFRING  |   BIRP: Birds in Reserves  |   CAR: Bird Roadcounts  |   CWAC: Waterbirds  |   MyBirdPatch  |   rePhotoSA  |   SAFRING: Bird Ringing  |   SABAP2: Bird Atlas 2

Bird Pictures Archive

BirdPix logo

Date started: 2012-08-08 16:17:27

BirdPix curates interesting and important photos of birds. There are no particular constraints on what can and cannot be submitted, apart from needing the locality information. It is an excellent place to deposit photos of species which are out of their normal ranges. For atlasers, it can be used to keep the photos of species for which “Out of Range Forms”? (ORFs) were generated. For bird ringers, it can be used to store photos of birds in the hand which were for some reason interesting: for example, pictures showing unusual patterns of wing moult, plumage variation with age and sex, etc. Records submitted to BirdPix will be included as incidental records for mapping bird distributions.


Birds with Odd Plumages

BOP logo

Date started: 2012-03-13 14:42:59

Birds with all sorts of unusual plumage variations are observed from time to time. Nowadays, with digital photography, pictures of these birds are frequently available. BOP (Birds with Odd Plumage) aims to provide a place where the photographs can be curated into one database. Any bird with any unusual plumage characteristic qualifies for inclusion in the virtual museum. This will provide the opportunity to look for patterns. Do certain species have abnormal plumage more frequently than others? Do unusual plumage patterns occur more in some places than in others?


Atlas of Dung Beetles in southern Africa.

DungBeetleMAP logo

Date started: 2015-08-18 09:54:38

The dung beetles are the family Scarabaeidae within the order Coleoptera, which contains all the beetles. DungBeetleMAP is a project which the ADU is doing in collaboration with Professor Clarke Scholtz and the Scarab Research Group at the University of Pretoria. The expert panel for DungBeetleMAP is drawn from this research group. Dung beetles play a critical roles in both natural and agricultural landscapes; they process the dung of both wild and domestic animals, consuming it and burying it. They are responsible for a key ecosystem service.

If photographs of beetles belonging to other families within the Coleoptera are uploaded to DungBeetleMAP, they will (for the time being) be identified only to family. Hopefully, some time in the future, separate projects will start for these other families.


Atlas of African Echinoderma

EchinoMAP logo

Date started: 2012-10-04 15:32:19

Echinoderms (starfish, sea-urchins, brittle-stars and their kin) are conspicuous and attractive marine animals, frequently photographed by divers. Although many can be identified from photographs, no comprehensive guide to South African species exists, making it difficult to accurately identify images. The fauna is also poorly know, making it very likely that divers will encounter species new to the region, or even to science. This site aims to collate all available images of echinoderms from South Africa, thus building up a comprehensive identification guide, as well as mapping the ranges of each species. Images of all South African echinoderms are welcomed and all contribute equally towards a better understanding of the distribution patterns of these fascinating creatures.


Atlas of freshwater fish in southern and eastern Africa.

FishMAP logo

Date started: 2015-08-18 15:00:00

FishMAP is a Virtual Museum project aiming to: (1) map the current distribution of the fresh water fish occurring in Africa, tentatively, the FishMAP region includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia and the countries to the south and east of them; and (2) to serve as a repository of all existing distribution data for this group in the geographic extent of the project.


Frog Atlas of Southern Africa

FrogMAP logo

Date started: 2010-09-20
Web page: http://adu.org.za/frog_atlas.php

FrogMAP is a citizen science project which aims to determine the distribution and conservation priorities of Amphibians on the African continent. FrogMAP is building the 21st century distribution maps for Africa's frogs. FrogMAP is the continuation of the Southern African Frog Atlas Project (SAFAP). It aims to build on the distribution data collected during seven years of fieldwork (1996-2003), plus earlier data compiled from museum records, private collections, the literature and conservation agencies. SAFAP data was used for the 2003 red listing of all frog species of the region, the results were published in the book Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, published by the Smithsonian Institution, USA.


Atlas of African Neuroptera and Megaloptera

LacewingMAP logo

Date started: 2014-09-08

The Neuroptera and Megaloptera are collectively loosely termed the "lacewings." Hence the name LacewingMAP. This is a somewhat obscure group of insects, and this project is an ideal way to sensitize everyone to their existence. Are lacewings good or bugly? They are one of nature's best all-purpose predators. They control aphids. So when you make a list of "ecosystem services" (the stuff we get for free from the planet) don't leave off the lacewings. We are doing this project in collaboration with Dr Mervyn Mansel, University of Pretoria, and a world leader in lacewing research.


Atlas of African Lepidoptera

LepiMAP logo

Date started: May 2007
Web page: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP

Lepimap is a citizen science project which aims to determine the distribution and conservation priorities of butterflies and moths on the African continent. LepiMAP is building the 21st century distribution maps for Africa's butterflies and moths.

LepiMAP is a joint project of the Animal Demography Unit (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town) and Lepsoc, The Lepidopterists' Society of Africa. It is the continuation of SABCA, the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment.


Virtual Museum of African Mammals

MammalMAP logo

Date started: July 2010
Web page: http://mammalmap.adu.org.za/

MammalMAP The Animal Demography Unit at UCT and the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria are collaborating to develop the MammalMAP, the Mammal Atlas of Africa. The Cape Leopard Trust was a key catalyst in initiating this project. The objective of MammalMAP is to generate 21st century distribution maps for all of Africa’s mammals.

MammalMAP consists of digital photographic records of mammals along with accurate geographical coordinates of where the pictures were taken. MammalMAP is limited to wild (or feral) mammals. So domestic animals are excluded, and so is Homo sapiens. But the golden rule that applies is: If in doubt, submit.


Atlas of South African Mushrooms

MushroomMAP logo

Date started: 2014-09-08

Interest in mushrooms is mushrooming. Mushrooms are somehow mysterious, appearing and disappearing. MushroomMAP aims to help solve one of the big mushroom mysteries: "How are they distributed?" Even within South Africa this information is remarkably incomplete. This Virtual Museum project focuses on the "macrofungi", the mushrooms (and other fungi) that are more than about 5 mm in size. This is the same cut-off as used by Marieka Gryzenhout in her guidebook "Mushrooms of South Africa" published by Struik Nature. In her book, she describes the distribution of many species "widespread." So MushroomMAP provides the opportunity to make a real contribution to our understanding of the distribution of this fascinating component of biodiversity.


Odonata Atlas of Africa

OdonataMAP logo

Date started: 22-Sep-2010

OdonataMAP is a Virtual Museum project aiming to: (1) map the current distribution of the insect Order Odonata, i. e. Dragonflies and Damselflies, occurring in Africa; and (2) to serve as a repository of all existing distribution data for this group in the geographic extent of the project.
To participate in the Odonata VM you need to be a registered ADU observer. Close-up photographs of dragonflies or damselflies, along with date and locality information, including geographic coordinates are submited to the VM in the data upload section (available to logged users). The Virtual Museum allows you to upload a maximum of three images per record.
Please take the GPS coordinates as accurately as possible; alternatively you can also find your position on the Google Map available in the upload page, but this may be difficult if you are away from good landmarks.


Atlas of African Orchids

OrchidMAP logo

Date started: 2014-09-08
Web page: http://orchidmap.adu.org.za

Orchids are a charismatic and diverse family of flowering plants. With over 470 species in South Africa alone and more than 3300 species throughout Africa and Madagascar, we have a rich orchid flora. However, in recent years the collection of traditional herbarium specimens has been declining and our understating of where orchids are found is becoming ever more outdated. OrchidMap aims to reverse this trend with the help of orchid lovers. By submitting photos of orchid along with details of where and when the photo was taken, you can help us to improve our understanding of the distribution of South African and African orchids. OrchidMap is interested in distributions and flowering times of all orchids in Africa, Madgascar and the Western Indian Ocean Islands including naturalised or wild growing exotic species.


Photos of Weaver Nests

PHOWN logo

Date started: July 2008
Web page: http://weavers.adu.org.za/

PHOWN (Photos of Weaver Nests) is a conservation project aimed at determining the distribution of colonies or nests of all weaver species globally. Counting weaver nests and taking photos allows monitoring of changes in weaver breeding effort. Many weavers are common while some weaver species are threatened; this project provides an easy way of monitoring them.

PHOWN is a project of the Animal Demography Unit (Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town).


Reptile Atlas of Africa

ReptileMAP logo

Date started: 10 May 2005
Web page: http://sarca.adu.org.za

ReptileMAP is the continuation of the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SARCA). It aims to improve our understanding of the diversity and distribution of reptiles in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and thereby make possible an improvement in the conservation status of these animals.

ReptileMAP also aims to improve public awareness of the value and plight of reptiles and also provide goverment agencies with a clear definition of conservation priorities that will help them to plan their activities.

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Atlas of African Scorpions

ScorpionMAP logo

Date started: 2013-03-04 11:26:42

Scorpions are conspicuous and attractive terrestrial animals, and are frequently photographed. Images of all African Scorpions are welcomed and all contribute equally towards a better understanding of the distribution patterns of these fascinating creatures.
Scorpions have captivated much interest by scolars by their great antiquity and the amazing suite of biochemical, physiological, behavioral, and ecological adaptations that have combined to ensure their continued success over the past 450 million years.
Scorpions have a wide geographical distribution and live on all major land masses except Antarctica. Although some species are quite specific in (micro)habitat requirements, many exhibit a high degree of plasticity in habitat use. However, the distribution of most species is poorly known and in most cases it is based on a handful of museum records.


Atlas of African Spiders

SpiderMAP logo

Date started: 2013-08-05

SpiderMap is an online repository for photographic species distribution records for this important group of arthropods. Spiders make up the largest proportion of terrestrial invertebrate diversity after the insects and the mites, and they play a significant role as predators in ecosystems. Several initiatives are currently under-way to map spider distributions, and SpiderMap aims to complement these by encouraging submissions from the ADU Citizen Scientist community. Records will be directed to the South African National Survey of Arachnida once identified.

Regarding identification of spiders, particularly the Aranaemorph, which in most cases are impossible to identify beyond family level from photographs. More precise identifications will be provided when the relevant experts are able to look at the submissions, however, there is a lack of experts to fulfill this difficult task.


Virtual Tree Herbarium (TreeMAP)

TreeMAP logo

Date started: 2010-12-01

Instructions for the Virtual Tree Herbarium:
Most trees can be identified with photographs of their bark, their leaves and their flowers and/or fruit. Try to take pictures of all of these, from the same tree. The Virtual Museum allows you to upload a maximum of three images per record. If you are a tree expert, and you know that a photograph of a particular feature provides certain identification, then you can upload just that picture into TreeMAP.
Please take the GPS coordinates, as accurately as you are able, as close to the tree as feasible. You can enter these into TreeMAP in three formats (decimal degrees DD.DDDDD, degrees and decimal minutes DD MM.MMM, and degree minutes and decimal seconds DD MM SS.S). You can also find your position on the Google Map, but this may be difficult if you are away from good landmarks.
If you are walking a transect, the strategy we would suggest you adopt is to take a set of photographs of each species you encounter. Feel free to repeat a species if about a kilometre has passed since last you photographed it.


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The Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI)
The FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
Department of Biological Sciences - University of Cape Town
This work, except photographs, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright of images uploaded into the Virtual Museum remains with the photographers.

The Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI)          The Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI)          The FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology          UCT