This blog was born four and a half years ago, among the graceful llianas and tenacious biting insects of the Talamanca region of Costa Rica, where a small team of local scientists works around the clock on a 14+ year monitoring project that uses fish species in nearby streams to tell them indicators of water quality and stream health in the region. While I was visiting to illustrate a field guide of indicator species, Asociacion ANAI’s executive director Bill McLarney introduced me to each fish species like a friend; we gathered individuals from sampling sites, brought them back to the headquarters in a small tank, and when I finished sketching and photographing by night the ANAI team returned the (perhaps shaken, but very much alive) fish to their home streams.
The drawings were to be included in a taxonomic key that would aid citizen scientists in fish identification. As one of its projects, ANAI has been training residents of the indigenous territories bordering the La Amistad World Heritage Site in Costa Rica and Panama as aquatic parataxonomists (citizen scientists capable of analyzing and reporting on the health of their rivers and streams). In a recent letter I received from Bill, he explains that “this program – so far as we know the first aquatic parataxonomy program in the world – has been of critical importance both in solving water and habitat quality issues of local origin and staving off destructive megaprojects such as open pit mines and giant hydro dams which threaten not only aquatic systems but the cultural identity of the Cabecar, Bribri, Naso and Ngobe people.
One of ANAI’s partners, Freshwaters Illustrated, has provided this short video (password: supportANAI) that depicts this work and summarizes the problems facing these indigenous communities.
Now, this invaluable program is in danger. ANAI is facing a $30,000 budgetary shortfall for this program; they are at risk of interrupting training for new parataxonomists and losing program momentum during the first part of 2015.
Here’s how you can help. ANAI has been offered a $10,000 matching grant from another foundation on the condition that they match this amount with $10,000 in donations from either new donors or donors who have contributed before, as long as this donation is their biggest contribution to ANAI yet.
Please make a donation by visiting anaicr.org, clicking the “donate” button at the bottom of the page, and designating your donation for biomonitoring.
And as a bonus, the first 30 donors to donate $250 or more will receive a limited edition 11″ x 14″ signed, numbered, and matted copy of my leaf cutter ant (Atta spp.) drawing in the mail.