Planet Birdsong Foundation: Partnerships

Hilary at Global Birdfair 2022
The Planet Birdsong Foundation works with organizations of all sizes from local to global.We work with schools, universities, community organizations, arts organizations, conservation NGOs, and commercial organizations that share an interest in conservation, for example through tourism. We are running a case study for our proposed global outreach model in partnership with Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management at the University of Rwanda. This will be the blueprint for new partnerships around the world, in which local partners take the lead at a scientific, technical or community level. We are working with the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to evaluate the impact of our citizen science on global data collection.

Rwanda Partnership

The Planet Birdsong Foundation has a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Rwanda Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB). This partnership aims to enable Rwandans to record the acoustic characteristics and variations of all 700 bird species in their country. Data collection and verification will be managed in Rwanda, with Planet Birdsong providing mentoring and technical support.

We are developing citizen science programmes to increase local engagement with the programme. In October 2021, our trustee Hilary MacBean delivered a series of on-line webinars on birdsong recording. This was followed by active real time backup and tutoring through a WhatsApp group and in June 2022, a six-week visit to Rwanda for face-to-face field training. The training continues in an on-line format and between participants themselves. The training is modified through user experience, in response to citizen scientist activities.We are also creating bioacoustic games which increase familiarity with Rwandan bird sounds, and plan to install birdsong studios at key biodiversity education hubs.
Claver and Beth in the field
Claver Ntoyinkima and Beth Kaplin in the field

Our main partner in Rwanda is Professor Beth Kaplin, Professor of Conservation Science in the Biology Dept and Director, since 2016, of the Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity & Natural Resource Management, a knowledge management research centre aimed at contributing science to policy in support of the Rwandan Sustainable Development Goals, within the College of Sciences and Technology at the University of Rwanda. She is also Research Professor in the School for the Environment and Senior Fellow at the Center of Global Governance and Sustainability, both at University of Massachusetts - Boston. Her current projects include developing the Rwanda Biodiversity Information System (RBIS) as a repository of data for effective policy-making. From 2006 to 2015, Professor Kaplin raised over 1 million USD from the MacArthur Foundation to develop BSc and MSc programs in biodiversity conservation at the National University of Rwanda. She also created the Regional Network for Conservation Educators in the Albertine Rift to support and empower conservation scientists in Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Tanzania, and Uganda. She recognises the importance of avian taxa as indicator species and encourages ornithological studies and the input of avian data to the RBIS, including data collected by Planet Birdsong recordists. She has initiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the Planet Birdsong Foundation and together we seek funding to expand the collection of Rwandan/Albertine Rift bioacoustic data.

Collaboration with Conservation Heritage Turambe
Collaboration with Conservation Heritage Turambe
Rwandan participants comprise students and academics in schools, polytechnic colleges, and universities as well as working guides. We are committed to work to internationally accepted qualitative standards and specifications to ensure maximum value from the data. We are providing as many participants as possible with access to recording equipment consisting of parabolic reflectors developed to be compatible with locally available smartphones. Outstanding participants will be provided with additional professional equipment to ensure that all Rwandan bird species are recorded over a period of several years. The process will be overseen by some of Rwanda’s finest ornithologists, who will verify recordings to be stored locally at the Rwanda Biodiversity Information System and globally at e-bird, creating a comprehensive and readily accessible database of Rwandan bird sounds.

Our Team in Rwanda

Gael Van de Weghe
Gael Van de Weghe is a renowned naturalist, photographer and bird identification verifier and the best known ornithologist in Rwanda. With his father, he is author of Birds of Rwanda (2011, updated 2018), published by the Rwanda development Board. He provides bird reporting services in Rwanda and maintains new sighting lists and updates, all in support of Rwandan science and the growing number of active birders. He is a committed supporter of the Planet Birdsong project in Rwanda.

Claver Ntoyinkima
Claver Ntoyinkima is actively verifying records on behalf of Planet Birdsong. He is based in Nyungwe Forest National Park, where he has lived and worked as a guide for many years. He is an expert ornithologist, guide, and trainer. He has contributed to papers, films and books and made a noteworthy contribution to the “Wild Rwanda” by Behrens, Boix and Barnes (Lynx Edicions 2015). Claver is well known for his almost unique capacity to vocalise birds sounds, particularly the localised and often rare Albertine Rift Endemics. This skill is used to the full, to connect visiting birders with elusive forest species.

Claudien Nsabagasani
Claudien Nsabagasani is an established birder, trainer and bird tour guide in Rwanda. Claudien is actively verifying bird sound recordings made by citizen scientists contributors to the Planet Birdsong project. He has initiated long term monitoring of both common and endangered species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Claudien has contributed to the ecological studies of rare, endangered and endemic bird species across Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. He brings birding to the public, local communities and schools through the Rwanda Birding Club and his company, Birding and Educational Tours - Rwanda.

Metrics and Results
Our success metrics include seeing participants actively engaged in contributing to practical science at both local and international levels. They are doing so as citizen scientists working within the scope of sustainably implemented development projects and in wildlife tourism.
A survey carried out in October 2022, of participants trained in Rwanda reveals valuable information on the appetite for citizen science in Rwanda and the resources needed to make it a success. Citizen scientists have uploaded 73 audio entries from 45 Rwandan species to eBird and over 30 audio recordings to the RBIS.
Key findings included the need for a more user-friendly data capture and upload systems and the need for computer equipment and fieldwork resources. Keen recordists who are advancing their skills are progressing to full data and metadata collection and processing, using the methodology described in the training slides.