NEW PAPER ALERT: Documenting changing landscapes with rePhotoSA: A repeat photography and citizen science project in southern Africa

2 Aug 2021 - 10:15

A new article by several PCU researchers titled ‘Documenting changing landscapes with rePhotoSA: A repeat photography and citizen science project in southern Africa’ was published on 31 July 2021 in Ecological Informatics. The full article is available here, and can be accessed here for free until 3 October 2021.

The article is a new milestone for the rePhotoSA project, which had its sixth anniversary on 15 August this year. In the article, the repeat photography method is contextualised globally and in Africa, and the role of citizen science is highlighted. Highlights and full abstract are available below.



  • Historical landscape photographs are an under-utilised data source.
  • Citizen science allows data collection where financial costs would be prohibitive.
  • rePhotoSA project facilitates participation by citizen scientists in ecological research.
  • Historical photographs may improve our overall understanding of changing landscapes.



Ground-based repeat photography has a long history in documenting landscape change. Given the growing concern over the scale and rate of global change related phenomena, such as climate and land-use change, the benefits of involving the wider public in data collection efforts is increasingly being realised. Public involvement is particularly useful in national- and international-scale photographic monitoring projects where data collection spans relatively large spatial scales and is consequently expensive to gather, local knowledge is useful, and no specific training and only basic photographic equipment is required. Several research-grade repeat photography projects exist worldwide, but few rely on the involvement of citizen scientists. Here we introduce a citizen science repeat photography project of southern African landscapes: rePhotoSA. We evaluate the progress of the project to date and describe the level of utility of citizen science contributions to research. We also reflect on four key activities that are needed to ensure the long-term success of the project including attracting and keeping citizen scientists involved, maintaining data quality, providing accurate photo-site location information, and effective dissemination of scientific knowledge to the public. We conclude that the continued use of historical photographs as a unique source of historical environmental data to complement traditional scientific methods of data collection may improve our overall understanding of changing landscapes, and may serve as an effective means of illustrating landscape- and global change to the general public.