Live streams and distance learning are the new tools to resume field work and communicate results

How to keep working with Amazon communities in times of pandemic? What benefits can we achieve sharing traditional and scientific knowledge? How can biodiversity monitoring results reach the wider society?

These are some of the questions the Participatory Biodiversity Monitoring (MPB in Portuguese) team was trying to answer during the development of a series of weekly online chats open to the public. The live streams aimed to publicize the project, at a time when face-to-face activities in the Amazon Protected Areas have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During several live streams held by the Institute of Ecological Research (IPÊ) between September and October 2020, participants discussed how monitoring contributes to the preservation of biodiversity, how sustainable managed pirarucu and forest management chains are being monitored, and how Knowledge Gatherings among researchers and local communities help to combine science and traditional knowledge. Almost 400 people joined those live conversations, and some of the videos reached up to 1,500 views. 

The Knowledge Gatherings promote discussions among researchers, monitors, managers, and community leaders so that each one, building on their experience, can start looking at biodiversity through a scientific lens. Before March 2020, gatherings were held at the protected areas covered by the project. 

The MPB in the Amazon region is jointly led by IPÊ and Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). And it is part of the National Biodiversity Monitoring Program (Monitora), which follows standard protocols for species in Protected Areas. 

The goal of the MPB is to support biodiversity monitoring and promote socio environmental engagement to strengthen management and conservation. In five years, the program has directly benefited more than 4,700 people in 17 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon. 

Under the wider concept of participatory monitoring, additional protocols have been created by the MPB in collaboration with local communities, including, among others, Brazil nut production and the management of animal species (such as turtles and pirarucus). Each community can choose one species for monitoring, according to their needs. 

“The MPB came to a complete stop between March and August. Since then, specific activities have resumed, such as distance training for monitors and live streams. Our biggest challenge is to resume the Knowledge Gatherings, the core of the current stage of the project.  In the coming months, we will begin testing video conferencing facilities, which would allow people to remain in their communities, and attend outdoor gatherings virtually," explains Cristina Tófoli, project manager at IPÊ.

One of such online distance courses was held in October with monitors from the River Unini Extractivist Reserve (Resex) in Amazonas State. The goal was to present the pirarucu monitoring protocol and provide guidance on filling the forms with bioecological and socioeconomic information

The pirarucu protocol was created in a participatory manner, with the support of ICMBio’s managers of Conservation Units (as Brazil calls its public protected areas), local partners,  IBAMA environmental analysts, researchers and staff from IPÊ. It is currently being tested with the participation of management groups from four Units, and should result in a standard tool to assess the status of that species, as well as the environmental, economic and social efficiency of the sustainable management of pirarucu.