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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 
Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, 1901-1978

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Citizen science has win-win benefits for the natural world, wildlife and people!

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Big Butterfly Count, UK

This is a UK-wide survey aiming to help Butterfly Conservation assess our envrionmental health.  All you need to do is to count the amount and type of butterflies and moths you see!  It starts on Friday 14th July and runs to 6th August 2023 and all you have to do is to choose a place to spot butterflies and moths. Watch for 15 minutes. Then record which species you see.  There's lots of help on the website, so flutter away to find out more here.


Citizen Science works wonders!

The increase in the number of opportunities to be a citizen scientist has unearthed a number of benefits for nature-based citizen science projects and those taking part in them.

What is citizen science, anyway?

It’s when ordinary people like you and me volunteer to do scientific research.  We could collect data and send it off to the organisation conducting the research or get more scientifically involved.  Some people design experiments, whilst many others simply take part in projects.  Things like this really matter because they help conservation organisations build up a more detailed picture of how wildlife is faring, for example, and which species need help. 

Citizen science projects can include things such as counting butterflies and bird species and finding ancient trees, or reporting on snakes and other reptiles they’ve seen.  Some of these projects are annual events whilst others are on-going. 

The other great thing about it according to a recent study is that people can build a connection to science and the natural world.  They believe they’re doing something worthwhile with their time, something that will make a difference, and they can enjoy the benefits the natural world gives them.  And they feel happier afterwards.

Information about the study

In People and Nature (9 February 2023), the results of a study were published concerning citizen science.  The study was called “Nature Up Close and Personal: A Wellbeing Experiment”. The study is the first to investigate the effects of citizen science on volunteers.  Ecologist Dr Michael Pocock who is from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) led the study which was undertaken during 2020 (the pandemic restrictions were in force) by UKCEH, the University of Derby and the British Science Association.

The average age of the 500 participants from across the UK was 52 and there was a control group.  They were surveyed before and after taking part, so assessing differences in their connection to nature, their wellbeing and pro-nature behaviour.

Particpants were asked to do a 10 minute nature-based activity at least 5 times over 8 days, namely a pollinating insects survey, a butterfly survey, spending time in nature and writing down 3 good things they noticed or a combination of both.

The results of the citizen science study

The people who spent time in nature and writing down 3 good things they noticed were more likely to say they’d do wildlife friendly activities in future, so it seemed that the activity strengthened their relationship with the natural world.  (You could try this last activity at home and see how you feel about doing wildlife friendly activities.)

All the volunteers showed better scores in wellbeing and feeling connected to nature.  Comments included “it gave me permission to slow down” and “it reminded me that small things can make a difference to my mood” and “it made me more aware of nature in all aspects of the environment.”

Participants reported improved levels of happiness, a greater connection with nature and a determination to do wildlife friendly activities e.g. planting more pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens, creating shelters for wildlife.  Nature can indeed benefit from our involvement in citizen science!

Anyone can get involved in citizen science!

And the great thing about citizen science is that anyone can take part – you just need to have a bit of time and to be curious and willing to watch and record.  It’s another way in which we can strengthen our relationship with the natural world, which must surely be good for nature, for wildlife and for us!   It means that people can enhance their connection with nature whilst helping conservation as they collect important data.

The researchers believe their results highlight the benefits of focusing on the natural world, and that’s even if that’s just for a few moments.

UKCEH welcomes support from anyone interested in getting involved with recording wildlife via their iRecord website and free-to-use apps for butterflies and the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme.

To conclude, a question

What will you do to connect with nature this week?

Citizen science projects ....   some UK examples:

Wildlife Trusts (national, regional) 

The Shark Trust - be a citizen scientist for sharks!

Help the Seagrass Project spot seagrass.  Here's how

Buglife - help them monitor the state of our wildlife and deliver conservation action where it is most needed. 

Royal Parks in London have a number of different opportunities

Woodland Trust - help them with their ancient tree inventory

PTES (the People's Trust for Endangered Species) has a number of surveys

The Mammal Society have a number of surveys to help mammals

The National Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring Programme, just the thing for those fascinated by reptiles and amphibians

Butterfly Conservation has recording and monitoring opportunities

Help amphibians and reptiles in the UK by using Froglife's app to submit your sightings.

Why not search out opportunities in your area to see what citizen science projects there are that you can help with? 

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