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The Cape Town Hypothesis Test: Phytophthora species in urban vs natural areas

Joseph Hulbert: Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

<div>The Cape Town Hypothesis Test is the third phase of the pilot study for Cape Citizen Science (<a href=""></a>), a project to engage non-scientists as pathogen hunters. This phase was initiated because urban environments provide opportunities for the early detection of <em>Phytophthora</em> invasions. The hypothesis is that the <em>Phytophthora</em> species in the urban areas of Cape Town are different to those in the less disturbed Table Mountain National Park. Citizens were invited to contribute to the hypothesis test by submitting samples from their backyard as well as a few targeted areas in the urban areas. This is the first citizen-driven microbiology based hypothesis test in South Africa. Cape Citizen Science has already demonstrated the efficacy of engaging non-scientists in microbiological research, but the primary aim of this phase of the project was to demonstrate that citizens can contribute to testing hypotheses. In addition, by empowering citizens as biodiversity “protectors”, this phase will test the potential to mobilize the public to detect new invasions early.</div>