Small animals, big data: Mobilizing citizen science for data on the spiders of Asia

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Chrysilla-volupe-iNat-niyer-hero
Colourful jumping spider (Chrysilla volupe), Photo 2020 Naveen Iyer via India Biodiversity Portal publication grade dataset, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

India harbors incredible biodiversity across its diverse biomes, yet charismatic vertebrate species receive much of the attention, research and funding. By contrast, invertebrates, despite their manifold diversity, remain understudied.

The current state of knowledge on spiders in India exemplifies this issue. More than 1,800 species across 63 families have been recorded in the country so far, even as the true number of species is many multiples higher and many require taxonomic revision. Even for common species, spatial distribution, seasonality and natural history common species are inaccurate and poorly studied—a knowledge gap that has been criticized in several works on the systematics and biogeography of spiders.

The India Biodiversity Portal (IBP) has been documenting the country's species diversity, and its growing data on spiders from citizen science programs is increasing. At the same time, sightings of species reported on popular social media sites outnumber those on citizen science websites. Groups such as SpiderIndia have an established presence on sites such as Facebook, aggregated more than 20,000 observations from about 8,500 spider enthusiasts. However, this data remains fragmented, unstructured and inaccessible to researchers and the general public alike.

To address these issues, this project will update the current status of spider taxonomy on IBP and establish a systematic workflow to enrich its occurrence data on spiders from popular social media networks like SpiderIndia. The semi-automated, replicable workflow will create occurrence records on IBP, enable its validation by taxonomic experts and make validated records available for publication to GBIF. The project team will organize workshops to demonstrate the workflow, recruit other social media communities to adopt it to mobilize and liberate more biodiversity data in order to address spatial, temporal and ecological data gaps on India's arachnids.

Project progress
The project began with establishing a project team that would collaborate across and within the respective project institutions. Project goals and criteria were then set, and a developer assigned to undertake a background study, test multiple implementations, and choose appropriate algorithms and software.

By midterm reporting Facebook APIs and other approaches have been researched to access the required data. Several methods for extracting scientific names, place names, and dates, as well as geocoding software solutions were also tested. The chosen algorithms are now being turned into APIs within a microservice and linked up to a user interface for the curation team to use.

In addition to completing the scoping phase and the preliminary testing, the project held in December 2021 its first workshop for members of the SpiderIndia community. At the same time as the workshop, project team members also met to discuss project development, curation strategy, and future implementation.

While the project has experienced some minor disruption to project implementation due COVID-19, the project has adapted activities accordingly. Project members also meet regularly to monitor progress.

€ {{ 15378 | localNumber }}
€ {{ 9139 | localNumber }}
Duration
1 September 2021 - 31 October 2022
Project identifier
BIFA6_029
Partners
Project lead
Strand Life Sciences
Contact details

Thomas Vattakaven
Strand Life Sciences
Ground floor UAS, Convention -Centre Alumni Association Building
Veterinary College Campus, Bellary Road
560024 Bengaluru
India