Connecting with nature through citizen science
by Karen Lam
I initially joined WWF-Hong Kong’s Citizen Science programme out of curiosity. "Citizen" and "Science" may seem unrelated, but what happens if you put them together? Another incentive to join was the venue: Mai Po Nature Reserve, which is cited in many bird-watching books. How can I miss out on such an interesting place that I’ve never been before?
We conducted many types of citizen science surveys, including various animal studies (black-faced spoonbill, white-necked crow, crab, four-spot midget, fireflies, bats, mammals), marine microplastics survey and an ecological survey of the Shui Hau mudflats. What’s surprising is the fact that you never get bored doing the same survey in the same location.
What impressed me most about Mai Po is the opportunity to encounter a rich variety of animals: from timid ducks like the little grebe which is similar to ducks; a pied kingfisher flying over the birdhide; a common moorhen gliding speedily along the water, a white-breasted waterhen, a cormorant perched on a tree, or an azure-winged magpie hovering overhead. It’s exciting to spot, even for just a moment, animals that usually appear only in books. So I concentrated on my surroundings in a bid to see more.
This activity allowed me to see many species first-hand, such as the black-faced spoonbill, collared crow, four-spot midget, fireflies, snakes and other animals rarely seen in the city. It was also my first time to stroll through the boardwalk in order to get to the birdhide.
Participating in the Citizen Science programme is probably the best way for me to connect with nature. Each survey, in which we come across various animals, serves as a strong reminder for me that humans are not the only species in Hong Kong. Environmental protection is not just for us, but also for our non-human neighbours.
“Environmental protection is not just for us but also for our non-human neighbours.”
Karen (left) along with a fellow citizen scientist help prepare infrared cameras for conducting land mammal surveys.