FörTax in focus: Promoting species knowledge

FörTax with Katja Waskow (center) and Jonathan Hense (right) at the BMUV open house. © FörTax

 

The aim of the FörTax project is to promote species knowledge at all levels and thus prevent the decline in species knowledge. Therefore, the LIB, Museum Koenig Bonn, DELATTINIA e.V. – Naturforschende Gesellschaft des Saarlandes and the didactics of biology at the University of Bonn cooperated. In this interview, Katja Waskow, FörTax coordinator, draws an interim balance and gives an outlook on future activities.

Why is the topic of species knowledge so important?

It is the basis for nature conservation and sustainable living. If we know and appreciate nature and the species on our doorstep and enjoy spending time there, we are more motivated to protect them. We want people to have the intrinsic motivation to get involved in nature conservation – and species knowledge is a wonderful way to do that. The didactics of biology at the University of Bonn, a FörTax project partner, is also investigating the questions: What does species knowledge do to us humans? And why is it good for us?

Which project modules are carried out at the Museum Koenig? 

In total, we are responsible for three modules: the assessment, the conference series “FörTaxCon” and the “FörTax-Clubs”, our educational programme for young people aged from 14 years.

What does the assessment include and what is its the goal?

The aim is to determine, what species knowledge programmes are available, which institutions, museums, universities, associations and private individuals offer courses, excursions to promote species knowledge and what the demand is. The results of the research will be collected in a database that will be available to everyone at the beginning of 2023. It will contain the stakeholders and their offers in the German-speaking countries. For example, if you are interested in a course on bees, you can search the database for specific programmes for a particular region. Another general goal of the project is to derive recommendations for policy from the collected data and to show how the transfer of species knowledge can be promoted systematically.

In 2021, the first “FörTaxCon” took place digitally. Are there already plans for the second conference?

The first “FörTaxCon” intended to bring together stakeholders from the field of species knowledge. The second conference should focus on discussing problems, possible solutions and perspectives: Where is the lack? What are the challenges and how can we address them? It is planned for the beginning of November 2023.

What can interested people expect at the “FörTax-Clubs”?

The “FörTax-Clubs” address young people from the age of 14 and are a pendant to the sports club or the music school. The young people meet once a week in a fixed group and they decide which topics they want to explore and which experts they want to invite, they go on excursions and design their own projects.

How do you try to reach people outside the science bubble?

Of course, we want to reach as many people as possible and bring species knowledge to the broader society. That’s why we were at the Museumsmeilenfest, the „Bonner Wissenschaftsnacht” or the Bonn Sustainability Festival “Bonn – Rundum nachhaltig”, among others. One highlight was certainly our participation in the open house of the Federal Government at the invitation of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), the project’s funder. We were one of the projects selected to present ourselves at thePotsdamer Platz in Berlin. Jonathan Hense, from the didactics of biology at the University of Bonn, and I even had the opportunity to give a short interview about FörTax as part of the stage programme.

Who did you come into contact with in this context?

The audience at public booths ranges from homeless people to state secretaries. Such events also enable us to reach the “non-visitors”, the people who don’t normally visit our museum. We can engage them in conversation and encourage them to learn about species. We usually have a quiz with us, for example with bird specimens of native species to which species names have to be matched. Surprisingly, the identification usually works better than people think, so that they immediately associate a positive feeling with species knowledge.

FörTax was officially launched in September 2020. What have you achieved so far? 

I am very surprised that we have achieved much more than we had planned. It started off great. Despite Corona, the “FörTax-Clubs” were able to start right at the beginning of 2021 – all digitally. We started trying things out early and weren’t afraid to go online. One advantage was certainly that other courses and projects at the Museum Koenig Bonn made it possible to specifically approach young people to see if they wanted to join in. We also decided to go digital for the “FörTaxCon” and were able to clearly exceed our goal with 500 registrations. The assessment is largely independent of Corona, so many stakeholders are already recorded in the database. In addition, we have already published two papers. The first results from our project partners are also positive. The didactics of biology has collected a lot of data and the “DELATTINIA” has already largely built up its „Akademie für Artenkenntnis”. What we are already noticing is that we usually have more registrations for the various programmes than we have capacity for and that we should actually offer more.

What upcoming activities and events can we look forward to?

We have already contributed to the book on the special exhibition “Facettenreiche Insekten”, which has been shown at the Museum of Nature Hamburg and in Braunschweig and is currently touring through Germany. But we would like to publish our own species knowledge book. We are also planning a podcast on the topic of species knowledge, for which we would like to approach other projects, actors and experts. The goal would be a podcast premiere at the next “FörTaxCon” in November 2023. Together with our colleagues in Hamburg, we are working on getting funding for a “FörTax Club” there at the Museum der Natur Hamburg. We are also planning presence meetings together with smaller museums and organisations all over Germany, which should also promote species knowledge locally in other regions.

What are the long-term goals for the project?

In the long term, we would of course like to continue the FörTax project beyond 2026. It’s great that we have six years of funding. That’s much longer than many other projects. But I think it is very disappointing when so much energy and time is invested and great formats or helpful tools, such as the database, are created, which are then no longer continued after the project period. The database has to be continuously maintained, just like the networks that were built for the conferences. And even six years from now, there will still be young people who are interested in species knowledge and want to join the “FörTax-Club”. That’s why a continuing project would be ideal, or at least follow-up funding. I think we are on the right track and can look to the future with confidence.

 

The FörTax project (Förderung von taxonomischen Wissen als Grundlage für den Naturschutz) is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation within the framework of the Federal Biological Diversity Programme, with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection and with funds from the Saarland Ministry for the Environment, Climate, Mobility, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and the Dr. Hans Riegel Foundation. The LIB, Museum Koenig Bonn is the coordinating project partner.

Further information on FörTax at https://foertax.de and on their social media channels.

Young people research in the “FörTax-Club. © Marc Bieschinski
On an excursion with the “FörTax-Club. © LIB, Stehr
FörTax bird quiz at the Museumsmeilenfest. © LIB, Wojewski-Yelle
The FörTax booth at the “Bonn Science Night”. © FörTax
Visit of State Secretary Dr. Christiane Rohleder to the FörTax team at the BMUV Open Day. © BMUV, Christopher Wehrer

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