Brees, J., Huyse, T., Tumusiime, J., Kagoro-Rugunda, G., Namirembe, D., Mugabi, F., Nyakato, V., Anyolitho, MK., Tolo, C. & Jacobs, L. 2021. ‘The Potential of Citizen-Driven Monitoring of Freshwater Snails in Schistosomiasis Research’. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 6(1): 18: 1-13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.388. (PR).
Article in a scientific Journal / Article in a Journal
Schistosomiasis is a tropical parasitic disease affecting more than 200 million people worldwide, predominantly in Africa. The World Health Organization recently highlighted the importance of targeted control of the freshwater snails acting as intermediate hosts for the parasites causing schistosomiasis. However, because of a shortage of trained experts and resources, detailed information on spatiotemporal snail distributions, which is needed for targeted control measures, is often missing. We explore the potential of citizen science to build these much-needed datasets through fine-grained, frequent snail sampling. We trained a network of 25 citizen scientists to weekly report on snail host abundances in 77 predefined water contact sites in and around Lake Albert (western Uganda). Snail abundance, together with marked GPS locations, water chemistry parameters, and photographs of the identified snails are recorded and submitted using the freely available mobile phone application KoBoToolbox. Trained researchers then engage in remote, semi-automatic validation of the submissions, after which there is an opportunity to provide targeted feedback to the citizen scientists. Five months after the operationalisation of the network, a total of 570 reports were submitted and personalized feedback was given, resulting in lasting improvements in subsequent reporting and snail genus identification. The preliminary results show the possibility of citizen science to independently obtain reliable data on the presence of schistosome snail hosts. We therefore argue that citizen-driven monitoring on a high spatiotemporal resolution could help to generate the much-needed data to support local targeted snail control measures in remote and/or resource-limited environments.