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Project Description: 

This pilot project kick-starts a national campaign called “BioDiscovery 2023 North Macedonia”, which enables young citizen scientists to play their part in raising public awareness and supporting policy advocacy on biodiversity issues in North Macedonia (MKD).

Project Type: Kick Starter
Theme: Healthy Planet, Biodiversity
Mentor: Inês Navalhas

BioDiscovery 2023 – We can all play a role in preserving biodiversity

Between September and November 2023, the EU-funded BioDiscovery 2023 project collected over 6000 photos and related data on biological diversity in North Macedonia with the collaboration of some 200 young researchers across all 8 regions. Working with eco clubs and teachers from primary and high schools, the project utilised the free nature observation app iNaturalist, through which the young data gatherers learnt about the wonders of nature while contributing to scientific research. 

Through these citizen science activities, BioDiscovery 2023 kick-started a process which prompted schoolyards and gardens across the country to be better adapted for supporting biodiversity and contribute to the conservation of vulnerable species while taking critical steps to improve every citizen’s health and quality of life.

The project staged its final event at the Natural History Museum Skopje on 12/12/2023, launching “Our Biodiversity”, an exhibition of collages featuring over 500 photos taken by the young citizen scientists who contributed to the project. The public exhibition will remain open until December 19, with plans to tour it in other suitable venues across North Macedonia.

Although the research was conducted in a series of so-called “bioblitz” events at the end of the vegetative season, the project’s researchers still discovered many different species around them, including over 1000 different species of plants, fungi, insects, reptiles and mammals. The young researchers collected a large body of data depicting farmed and captive species rather than wild species, which was a clear indicator of a poor understanding of biodiversity and how it affects their living environment.

The greatest enthusiasm was demonstrated by eco clubs with a strong connection to nature and dedicated mentors. At the final event and opening of the photo exhibition: “Our Biodiversity”, a nationwide competition awarded binoculars and telescopes for the most observed species as a team and by a single participant, as well as the largest variety of observed species by a participant and team. Awards went to the “OOU 7 Marsi” school from the village of Chelopek and two of their students. The award for the greatest diversity of observed species was won by a scouts unit from Kumanovo, and a prolific young data-gatherer from the “Aleksandar Makedonski OOU” school in Skopje also received a certificate of commendation.

The technologically advanced iNaturalist app proved perfectly suited and was readily adopted by a young generation of citizen scientists. This application can be used to record nature’s wonderland of a database and provide solid data for scientific research.

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