12 Jun 2012

Open University’s iSpot nature observation site launches in Southern Africa

Flap-necked chameleon

Flap-necked chameleon

iSpot Southern Africa launched today in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) which leads and coordinates research, and monitors and reports on the state of biodiversity in South Africa.

iSpot lets users take a photograph of unknown fauna or flora, upload it to the site and ask the community to help identify and verify observations. iSpot Southern Africa launches with a lively existing community of over 800 users who have already submitted over 15,000 observations and 30,000 photographs to date.

Jonathan Silvertown, Director of iSpot at The Open University said: “All of us at iSpot HQ in the UK are very excited about the launch which gives this Open University site a truly global presence. South Africa has a natural heritage that is second to none and we are proud to support SANBI’s heroic efforts to conserve this biodiversity.

"We look forward to working with them over the coming years to make iSpot better and better, so that more and more people can learn to identify species.”

The site is linked to the Encyclopaedia of Life and the South African Red List of Plants. New developments on the site are constantly being made- such as the interactive map function which allows users to filter observations, and the common and scientific name dictionaries.

SANBI’s vision is to see iSpot grow a new generation of biodiversity ambassadors who actively contribute to the conservation of our rich natural heritage.

Visit iSpot southern Africa at to find out more and begin making a difference by iSpotting.

Editor's Notes

About iSpot
iSpot in the UK is funded from The Big Lottery Fund’s £11.7 million grant to OPAL (Open Air Laboratories: in which the OU is a partner.

The institute provides knowledge and information, gives planning and policy advice and pilots best-practice management models in partnership with stakeholders. SANBI engages in ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation, leads the human capital development strategy of the sector and manages the National Botanical Gardens as 'windows' to South Africa's biodiversity for enjoyment and education.

About The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 18,000 overseas.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 21 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, The Secret History of Our Streets and Empire.

About The OU in Africa
Launched in 2005, in direct response to requests from teacher education institutions across the region, TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa) is transforming the education of primary and secondary school teachers across Sub-Saharan Africa. Since launch, TESSA materials have been used to reach over 430,000 teachers, the programme has received over £4m in funding and we have won numerous awards.

HEAT is an accelerated and scalable Healthcare Education and Training programme for frontline healthcare workers, providing them with vital healthcare skills and enabling them to stay living and working in their communities while learning. The programme launched in Ethiopia in 2011, with £4m UNICEF funding and in close partnership with the Ethiopian Government, the World Health Organisation and AMREF. Discussions are now underway to replicate the model across sub-Saharan Africa, helping the region reach and train the 1 million additional health workers needed to reach its Millennium Development Goals.

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