A workshop to promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing within Africa's freshwater bioinformatics community
In November 2019 FRC was awarded a grant to organise and host a 3-day workshop (25-27 March 2020) in Cape Town, South Africa. The aim of the workshop was to enable JRS freshwater grantees and leaders of similar efforts, to share experiences and lessons learned from existing platforms and the projects associated with them; and facilitate future sharing and collaboration. The envisaged short-term outcome included improved technical roadmaps, collaboration, and discussion to create synergies among the different projects, with the growth of a thriving community of African freshwater bioinformatics experts. The original workshop participants included the Project Director and Information Technology Leader from JRS-funded projects at organizations including:
- Freshwater Research Centre (FRC)
- Kartoza Open Source Geospatial Solutions
- South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)
- South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
- South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)
- Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD)
- Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB), University of Rwanda
- Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS)
- National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI)
- Nugsoft Technologies
- National Museums of Kenya (NMK)
- Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT)
- Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)
- Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)
- Aquahub and the Freshwater Information Platform (Austria)
In March 2020, the COVID pandemic stopped all travel and the workshop was postponed until September 2020. However, given the longevity of the COVID pandemic and associated travel bans and risks, this workshop never happened. Instead FRC hosted two online seminar series. New JRS grantees joined in including:
- FRC and African Demography Unit’s Atlas and Phenology of Dragonflies and Damselflies in South Africa Project
- SANBI’s South Africa Biodiversity Data Pipeline for Wetlands and Waterbirds (BIRDIE) project
- Southern African Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems and Biodiversity in the Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer project
- Okavango Research Institute’s ORBIS: Okavango Repository for BIodiverSity Data (ORBIS) Project.
Freshwater Biodiversity in Africa Seminar Series 2021
Between March and August 2021, thirteen separate seminar sessions were held. Each project team from each organization had a session where they presented an overview of their project including the technical aspects, where relevant. This was followed by a general discussion. The entire series was recorded and is available as a playlist of the FRC YouTube channel (Freshwater Biodiversity in Africa Seminar Series 2021). The seminar series was well attended and provided an exciting space to learn from other projects, discuss common challenges, and explore future collaboration and synergies amongst projects. The series also highlighted a number of topics that would benefit from more in-depth discussion, which were rolled out in 2022.
Freshwater Biodiversity in Africa Seminar Series 2022
For each of the seven topics, three to five specific questions were formulated to guide discussions. The entire series was recorded and is available as a playlist of the FRC You Tube channel (Freshwater Biodiversity in Africa Seminar Series 2022). Topics discussed include:
- Topic 1: Cultivating productive data-provider relationships
- Topic 2: Achieving platform impact
- Topic 3: Tracking platform impact
- Topic 4: Platform scaling and synergies
- Topic 5: Platform sustainability and longevity
- Topic 6: Platform outreach and promotion
- Topic 7: Freshwater taxon lists
FRC has compiled a summary of useful discussion points with the intention of providing current and future JRS grantees, as well as other individuals and organizations, insight into common challenges and solutions in setting up of biodiversity information systems or platforms; and experiences of individuals and organizations that participated in the seminar series. The seminar series has been an extremely valuable and fun opportunity for the freshwater bioinformatics community in Africa to engage and learn from each other. Friendships and working relationships have been forged and knowledge shared. The funding from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation has been catalytic in growing the freshwater bioinformatics community in Africa, and FRC have enjoyed hosting these seminar series.
The FRC hosts and three key contributors share their thoughts on the series. To watch the short video, please click here.
This seminar series has focused on issues around mobilising data and developing platforms for serving freshwater biodiversity data. Core to all platforms is the “data point”. To highlight the value of a data point, a short film “The Life of a Data Point” has been produced. Enjoy!
To watch “The Life of a Data Point”, please click here.