I like spiders. I especially like jumping spiders (Salticidae) because they are so cute, with many beady eyes and a whole lot of attitude. That they are way too small to sink a fang into me helps a lot too. They are always welcome in my kitchen where they jump on any flies that dare to enter.

Jumping spider (Salticidae). PHOTO: Vida van der Walt

I am more ambivalent about rain spiders. I know they seldom bite and are not particularly venomous. I’m quite chuffed when one appears from behind a picture on the wall because I know that no mosquito will plague me while this spider guards my bedroom. But the same spider on the ceiling above my bed is a different matter. What if it should jump or fall down onto my face in the night?

We have all run into more than a few spiders in our lives, perhaps hanging out in a web near the front door, or skittering across a plant in the garden. Spiders live in almost every habitat on the planet, so it’s quite usual to find them anywhere from fynbos habitats to near the sea. Some people even keep them as pets.

While spiders might make some of us cringe, everyone finds them fascinating, especially when we learn more about them.

Dr Vic Hamilton-Attwell and Whale Coast Conservation are providing an opportunity for young and old to go on an eco-adventure on 5 December to find out more about spiders living in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. And at the same time participants can contribute to our knowledge of the fauna of the reserve. Relatively little information exists about the spider species in Fernkloof and, with your participation, we can learn a lot more – and perhaps even find spiders that are unique or rare.

Rain spider PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

‘Citizen-science’ is the active public involvement in scientific research. Science is no longer restricted to academics but instead it has become a pursuit for the public in general. Nature lovers have been acting as data collectors for a long time, especially people who create lists of wildlife they see around them.

Birdwatchers are especially keen on making lists of the bird species they see. Scientists have come to realise that these lists can provide useful information for monitoring animal populations. The mobile apps that are now available make uploading data extremely user-friendly. The Animal Demography Unit at UCT keeps extensive databases of thousands of records that are uploaded by both professionals and amateurs. Dr Vic will show you how it’s done.

Children often enjoy keeping spiders as pets. PHOTO: PetAssure

Citizen science thus enables participants to make a direct contribution to research, increase their own scientific understanding and learn about environmental issues. Additionally, citizen-scientists can help researchers to maximize the amount of data collected on a project.

Why not join other citizen-scientists collecting valuable data about spiders in Fernkloof? It will be an experience to remember and you will upskill yourself.

The Fernkloof spider hunt is on Thursday 5 December at 17:30 in the Fernkloof gardens. To book contact anina.wcc@gmail.com. The cost is R120 for adults and R60 for children. All proceeds go to environmental education.

About the Author

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Whale Coast Conservation passionately lives by its slogan “Caring for your environment”.

Its small staff and volunteers are dedicated to

  • raising community and visitor awareness of the unique, biodiverse natural resources of the Cape Whale Coast region and
  • to projects that convert awareness into practical actions that lead towards living sustainably.

WCC ensures expert representation in public participation processes that contribute to environmental and developmental policies and legislation.  We monitor regional development; and ensure compliance with legislation and guidelines.

WCC increases general public awareness of sustainability through environmental education, citizen-science research projects, community projects and campaigns.

WCC communicates with its audience through exhibitions, signage, technology demonstrations, workshops, talks, film shows, newsletters and articles.

WCC places emphasis on educating future generations through its Youth Environment Programme (YEP).  YEP is offered to 24 schools in its target area with a total of over 10,000 learners.

WCC facilitates schools’ participation in special events such as Earth Day, Walking for Water, Arbor Day and Coastal Clean-ups.

WCC facilitates educator development programmes to improve the capacity of educators to offer informed environmental content in their lessons across all learning streams.

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