Main Forum

A forum is held annually to provide opportunities to:

  • discuss challenges and potential solutions in terms of the collection, compilation and co-ordination of foundational biodiversity information;
  • provide guidance for funding proposals; and
  • facilitate networking and collaboration that will enhance the products from the FBIP and increase their impact.

The first Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) Forum was held from 3-4 June 2015 at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens. Since 2016, the FBIP hosted joint forums with the Biodiversity Information Management Division from SANBI.

BIMF-FBIP Forum 2017

For the second year, the Biodiversity Information Management (SANBI) and the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) jointly hosted the BIMF–FBIP Forum. The Forum was held from 14th – 17th August 2017 at Salt Rock Hotel and Beach Resort, KZN and aimed to promote and further enhance networks, collaboration and the development of information management practice by the biodiversity science community.

The 2017 forum had a strong focus on Collections Data Management. A standing item on the Forum programme included a Postgraduate Student Forum (link to info below), and the core programme was followed by a SANBI–GBIF Geo-referencing Training workshop and a FBIP proposal development and evaluation workshop. Over 100 delegates gathered for this annual event.

Click on the links to download the Forum Proceedings  and News article

BIMF-FBIP Forum 2016

In 2016, the FBIP jointly hosted a forum with SANBI’s Biodiversity Information Management Forum (BIMF). Approximately 120 participants from 35 different institutions attended the Forum which was held from 10-13 May 2016 at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town. The key focus of the forum was to harmonise biodiversity information generation and sharing in support of science, policy and decision-making to bring about a holistic understanding of institutional needs, priorities and capacity relating to biodiversity data across the sector. One of the aims of the forum was also to promote the FBIP as a funding mechanism to provide foundational biodiversity information and to give guidance for 2016 funding proposals. A few funded FBIP projects were showcased and delegates had an opportunity to network and collaborate towards potential projects. On the third and fourth day, parallel training sessions (link), Specify working groups (link) and a Postgraduate Student Forum (link) were held.

The Forum programme and News article (link to article published on SANBI website – 2016 Joint BIMF-FBIP a huge Success, 15 July 2016) is available to download.

FBIP Forum 2015

The first Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) Forum was held from 3-4 June 2015 at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, Pretoria. Approximately 100 participants from 29 different South African institutions including universities, museums, science councils and other research organisations attended the forum. The two-day programme included presentations and parallel working group sessions. Click on the link to download the 2015 Forum programme.

The objectives of this inaugural FBIP Forum was to:

  • Provide guidance for funding proposals;
  • Discuss some of the challenges and potential solutions in terms of the collection, compilation and co-ordination of foundational biodiversity information; and
  • Facilitate networking and collaboration that will enhance the products from the FBIP and increase their impact.

Day 1:

Ms Carmel Mbizvo, Head of Research and Policy Advice at the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), opened the forum and welcomed the participants. Dr Yonah Seleti, Chief Director of Science Missions at the Department of Science & Technology (DST), outlined the biodiversity priorities for the DST and Dr Andrew Kaniki, Executive Director Knowledge Fields Development at the National Research Foundation (NRF), provided inputs and feedback from the NRF perspective. The FBIP Manager, Prof Michelle Hamer (SANBI) presented an overview of the FBIP programme, outlined the key elements for successful proposals and discussed the requirements for small grants and large integrated projects. Finally she summarised the FBIP data types, requirements and templates (species occurrence data, species information pages, taxonomy data, sequence / barcoding data). Her presentation can be downloaded here.

The rest of the day consisted of contextual and informative presentations on current funded projects, research and data management and grant holder presentations.

Day 2:

On the second day, the following working groups met concurrently to discuss several topics and answer questions of importance to each group’s field of study: DNA barcoding, foundational biodiversity information for microbes, and species occurrence & pages.

DNA barcoding group

Facilitators: Michelle van der Bank (University of Johannesburg) and Monica Mwale (National Zoological Gardens of South Africa).

The group discussions centred on questions such as: What qualifies as DNA barcoding; how do we ensure that data meet requirements for barcoding; What are the priority focus taxa / areas for barcoding; What are the co-ordination requirements for SA-IBOL; Should we consider other approaches for using DNA for species identification?

Foundational biodiversity information for Microbes group

Facilitators: Karin Jacobs (Stellenbosch University), Riana Jacobs-Venter (Agricultural Research Council) and Rosemary Dorrington (Rhodes University).

This group deliberated questions such as: What data are generated through surveys and studies on microbe diversity; Who uses these data and how do they use them; How can we increase use of microbe data; How do we manage and disseminate the data for use?

Species occurrence & species pages group


  • Species occurrence (animals): Willem Coetzer (South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity)
  • Species occurrence (plants): Domatilla Raimondo (SANBI)
  • Species pages group (e-fauna): Tsungai Zengeya (SANBI)
  • Species pages group (e-flora): Marianne le Roux (SANBI)

The species occurrence and species pages group merged for part of the session to discuss the integration of species attribute data into data management systems such as Brahms and Specify. Thereafter the species occurrence working group focused on the following topics: fields/data required, templates and software and identified needs in terms of training, support, integration of data sets, potential formation of user groups. The working group for species pages reflected on initiatives such as EOL, e-flora, and others; the alignment in data to be covered; integration or linking of different projects and data sets, avenues for dissemination.

The PowerPoint presentations of the working groups’ synopses are available for download. Additional comments from the participants during the joint discussions were added. Click on the links below to access the presentations.

DNA barcoding

Foundational biodiversity information for microbes

Species page data for animals & Species occurrence data

Species page data for plants & Species occurrence data

Postgrad Student Forum

The Postgrad Student Forum is directed at post-graduate students and post-doctoral fellows working on foundational biodiversity information-related projects including systematics, taxonomy and other disciplines that generate or that use foundational biodiversity information (e.g. DNA barcodes or sequence data, specimen or observation data).

Postgrad Student Forum 2016

The first FBIP Postgrad Student Forum was held on 12 May 2016 in conjunction with the BIMF/FBIP Forum. The aim of the meeting was to engage with students to establish if there is a need for an annual student forum and to determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed. Thirteen students representing several institutions attended the forum which was facilitated by Dr Leigh Richards (Durban Natural Science Museum) with support from Mr Musa Mhlambo (Albany Museum, Department of Freshwater Invertebrates) and Dr Pholoshi Maake (Agricultural Research Institution, ARC). The main outcomes of the meeting is summarised here. On recommendation of the Steering Committee, the Postgrad Forum will be hosted annually.

Postgrad Student Forum 2017

The 2017 Postgrad Student Forum was held concurrently with the BIMF/FBIP Forum. The Postgrad Student Forum is directed at postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows working on foundational biodiversity information-related projects and was attended by 29 delegates. The programme (link to document) included talks by Ms Karin Behr from SANBI who offered valuable background information in regards with collecting permits and Mr Dane McDonald who shared lessons from a (Biodiversity) Science communicator perspective. This was followed by speed presentations of fifteen students to showcase their research projects. The programme was concluded by the election of three representatives for the FBIP Postgrad Student Association: Fortunate Phaka (NWU), Ryan Rattray (UJ) and Nqobile Ndhlovo (UKZN). The FBIP sponsored 17 students’ accommodation and travel costs.

Training Workshops

A number of training workshops for biodiversity data management are offered during the year and often these workshops are presented in conjunction with the main forum. These workshops provide professional skills development.

Training workshops offered during the 2017 BIMF-FBIP Forum


Training workshops offered during the 2016 BIMF-FBIP Forum

A number of training sessions for biodiversity data management were offered during the 2016 joint Forum:

Introduction to using Specify
Facilitated by Mr. Willem Coetzer (SAIAB) and Ms Rukaya Johaadien (SANBI). The training provided an overview of Specify and what it can be used for in terms of taxonomic data, specimen data and managing collections.

Data quality control and improvement methods
Facilitated by Ms. Hannelie Snyman, Mr. Alpheus Mothapo and Ms. Michelle Smith. A number of sources of data quality problems in specimen/occurrence data were discussed during this training session including.

Submitting data to BOLD
Facilitated by Prof Michelle van der Bank and Mr Ronny Kabongo (African Center for DNA Barcoding, University of Johannesburg). The training covered some of the minimum requirements in terms of specimen data and sequence data during this session.

Camera trap data
Facilitated by Ms. Zoe Woodgate (University of Cape Town). The training focussed on how to capture camera trap data into a database; how to perform analyses with camera trap data; and the challenges of working with camera trap data.

Geo-referencing training workshop
On the fourth day SANBI-GBIF hosted a Georeferencing training event to build skills in improving data quality. The training was facilitated by SANBI team members Fhatani Ranwashe and Mutsinda Ramavhunga and co-hosted by Albe Bosman (Iziko Museums), Burgert Muller (National Museum of Bloemfontein) and Sherwyn Mack (Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency).

Specify Training workshop

The first SPECIFY training workshop was held at SANBI, Pretoria Botanical Gardens from 4-7 October 2016. The workshop, organised and funded through the FBIP, was run by Mr Willem Coetzer from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). On the first three days the training was aimed at people who have no or little experience in using Specify and on the fourth day, there were presentations and discussions on the existing status of databases in the different institutions represented and the challenges to migrating to common software.