Ivana Radović (RS)

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU has on average around 25 % of land as protected areas. In Serbia this percentage is around 8 % and process of protection of areas is very slow (it can last up to 10 years). The project tested the potential of citizen science to respond to the problem - how to overcome lack of resources and to provide data about biodiversity and habitats in a fast and economically acceptable way. Project contributes directly to the SDG 15, Target 15.1., indicator 15.1.2.

Project had a significant scientific impact, on a global and national scale: research resulted in finding of 6 new animal species for the world and 12 new animal species for Serbia. Project provided high quality data - around 98 % of data points are verified by experts. The quality of data is recognized by different stakeholders, including decision makers, who decided (based on our report) that they will visit this protected area and analyze the possibilities for expansion of the protected area. This policy impact can result in significant environmental impact - proposed area for protection is around 5 times bigger than the current protected areas. During the project was formed community of citizen scientists. Project managed to gather the local community, including people from rural areas, older people and youth. Project was promoted and well accepted in the public. Results of this project can be upscaled on national, EU or even global level, as a good methodology approach for increasing the percent of protected areas. This kind of project is crucial for solving the crisis of biodiversity, which results in habitat and species loss, but also in solving the problem of disconnecting people from nature.

Our project was funded as a part of the first cohort of IMPETUS’ acceleration programme. IMPETUS is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 101058677. We also would like to express our gratitude to the Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade (Serbia), for expert support provided to this citizen science initiative.

Ivana Radović (RS) (master's degree in biology and PhD in Agriculture) is a researcher in the field of plant physiology and works at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade. She is also a director of a NGO Ecological movement "Frame of life" which works in the field of sustainable agriculture, agrobiodiversity and wildlife biodiversity conservation. In 2019 Ivana founded the first Community Seed Bank in Serbia - initiative for in situ conservation of traditional varieties of fruits and vegetables. She published more than 50 scientific publications.

This Serbian initiative, led by the NGO Ecological Movement "Frame of Life," focused on expanding the protected area of the Monument of Nature Ribnica through citizen science. Citizens for SDG 15.1 empowers diverse communities to monitor and protect biodiversity around protected areas. With 29 citizen scientists, including women and elders, supported by 13 experts, the project collected data through group fieldwork, resulting in the discovery of 12 new species in Serbia, 1 new genus in Serbia and 6 new species for science. Based on the discoveries of the citizen scientists, recommendations were submitted to the relevant legal entity to expand the protection of this unique ecosystem to an area about five times larger.