Benefits of citizen science

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With the recent State of Nature report highlighting that over 50% of British species studied have declined in recent decades we need to look at how we can monitor and protect our important habitat and species. Citizen science offers fantastic opportunities for projects to get people involved with their natural environment and help to contribute to national surveys and recording of species. Citizen science projects gather data relating to the habitats and wildlife in particular areas, sometimes local or nationally, to engage people with nature, record and monitor important species and habitats to help inform natural heritage action plans for nationally threatened wildlife and habitats.

However there are wider benefits within HLF project especially when it comes to helping achieve our programme outcomes. These projects will help heritage to be better recorded but they can make huge difference for people and communities. These projects provide opportunities for people to volunteer time, develop new skills and learn about natural heritage. Projects help communities to get involved in their local natural heritage in lots of different ways, whether that is hedgehog spotting, surveying rare plants or learning new skills in natural history and nature conservation and help people to feel that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.

We’ve funded some great local citizen science projects but it would be interesting to hear how citizen science has been built in to other projects and how it has helped to engage local people. What has been your experience of citizen science? Is there anything that you would do differently? Did you find any wider benefits from involving volunteers in your nature projects?


  • Native British bluebells
View Katharine Boardman's profile Katharine Boardman Sep 28 2016 - 3:38pm
  1. Hi Katherine,

    I think Citizenship science is fundamental in this day and age, there has never been more of a need for active community participation in active recording and monitoring of our natural environment. Due to the ever growing pressures on the environment along with budget cuts, changing policies and resource constraints. For one I think we undervalue just how important local record Centre are as an example, in terms of a vital public resource. One that takes alot of organisation, verification, time and skill, with budget cuts too there future could be threatened.

    I am off to a big conference at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in a fortnight organised by OPAL. I will be sitting on one of the panels 'Looking Forward: What are the potential future applications of citizen science?', theirs lots of exciting talks and displays throughout the conference so I will feed back any ideas and points of discussion as the conference is all about Citizenship Science.

    OPAL is another great resource and organisation for those who may not be familiar with them, lots of free resources and national recording schemes to get involved with. These feed into national and live research in areas such as climate change, tree health, pond health etc: . I've participated in a number of their surveys and have delivered 'Train the Trainer' style workshops to help train others in delivering there surveys, such as those  from local community groups and schools, as an accessible user friendly resource feeding into a national monitoring project.

    Citizenship science has worked incredibly well for me in the DVLP, I teamed up with an existing natural history society called Sorby, who are exceptional:  we are working in partnership to help up-skill and train the next generation of naturalist's. The group has some fantastic tutors and members specialising in a number of flora and fauna, but with a particular emphasis on entomology. They have a similar aspiration to us to get others involved in biological recording, identification and survey with lots of older retired members wishing to pass there knowledge down.

    To date we have done over 20+ training workshops in survey and identification, from Mammals, botany to invertebrates etc. Invertebrates is a good one as there are so many groups and these often need more detailed recording and ID skills, so often go under-recorded or under represented across community sites. We are lucky with Sorby that we have so many skilled entomologists. To date we have had 200 plus on our workshops, with a regular core group of 30 naturalists of all levels, actively recording for us in the local area. These range from beginner to more specialist level and often follow training events to put there new knowledge and skills into practice in the field which is vital to increase there knowledge and understanding ads well as local records.

    I pride myself in making natural history accessible to everyone, which is why we run the workshops at no charge at all! I have seen it a bit like a mentoring scheme if you like, amateur naturalists and people with an interest come along and learn from the more skilled members, picking a specialist group or groups they wish to get more involved with the study of. They are provided with free training in ID, survey, monitoring, preserving samples, biology etc.

    To date from all our community survey projects we have generated almost 3000 new biological records with a particular focus on reptiles and invertebrates as these were under-represented in the Dearne due to recording effort and ID skills. The education is vital too as it helps people understand the significance and fragility and help pass this on  to others which is key for the future to maintain a legacy.

    If anyone wants any more detail about my other community projects please let me know, I will be happy to help. Just thought id provide some food for thought for now,

    Thanks Roseanna


  2. View Roseanna Burton's profile Roseanna Burton
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 1 month ago
  3. Thank you so much Roseanna for sharing your knowledge and experience. Some great points and it sounds like you and your volunteers are making a real difference.

  4. View Katharine Boardman's profile Katharine Boardman
    Offline | Last seen: 22 hours 57 min ago
  5. Just today there's a story in the press about an HLF-supported project in Wales, called Capturing Our Coast, which is “asking people in north Wales to keep an eye out for signs of passion in the lugworm population”.

    A professor from Bangor University - one of the project partners - said that engaging citizen scientists will provide them with simultaneous observations over a broad geographic area that simply wouldn't be possible without the help of the public.

    Read the full article here.


  6. View Amy Freeborn's profile Amy Freeborn
    Offline | Last seen: 1 hour 12 min ago
  7. in reply to

    This is a fantastic project and touching all corners of the British Isles. With 7 regional hubs there are lots of ways to get involved. Find out where your nearest hub is and how to get involved. It is proving a useful way to collect data from all over the country and will help to bolster national records and understanding of different marine species and environments.

  8. View Katharine Boardman's profile Katharine Boardman
    Offline | Last seen: 22 hours 57 min ago
  9. In the West Midlands there have been some great projects involving citizen science.

    Invertebrate Challenge run by the Fild Studies Council shows the impact volunteers can make- over 35,000 biological records were created through the project- wow!

    Building on their experience, the Field Studies Council are now developing proposals for a project to help care for the UK's less charismatic creatures. In addition to making important contributions to identifying and recording heritage for the first time, the project also has potential to engage volunteers ad help people learn about heritage and develop their skills. Watch this space!


  10. View Catherine Kemp's profile Catherine Kemp
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
  11. For a great intro/overview/summary of Citizen Science from Education Scotland (that is relevant UK-wide) this pdf download is well worth a look:…


    And to see how Citizen Science has featured in a John Muir Award Conserve Audit take a look at the links here for School, National Parks and Social Action contexts:

  12. View Rob Bushby's profile Rob Bushby
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
  13. HLF funded our London Dragon Finder project, which is largely based around informing and educating the public on amphibians & reptiles and their habitats. The project has incorporated a wide range of citizen science activities, from hosting wildlife workshops, where we shared tips and tricks to create a wildlife-friendly garden, to providing free reptile and amphibian identification training courses to volunteers and allotment holders.

    So far, we've delivered 39 ID courses to various groups across London, and it's been really successful - with many amphibian & reptile sightings being sent in to GiGL. We supported these training courses with our HLF-funded wildlife recording app, Dragon Finder, and from the data that we've received we can see that the volunteers are taking ownership of their gardens and local green spaces and regularly sending in records of what species they are finding. This is not only fantastic for the wider conservation effort, but is really useful to us when it comes to the planning and delivery of new larger pieces of habitat work within London, as we can use the data to target areas that would benefit most from our input, e.g. new ponds. 

    We've also seen that the app has been pivotal in receiving larger quantities of data from the public, as people tend to be less likely to fill in a recording form and post it to a central address, which takes time and a fair amount of effort. Whereas the app is just a few clicks on their phone, and gives us data we otherwise wouldn't have had.

  14. View Alan Shearman's profile Alan Shearman
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
  15. This week is Hedgehog Awareness Week!

    Rural hedgehog populations have declined by over half, and in urban areas, up to a third have been lost between 2000 and 2014.

    Thanks to National Lottery players, Suffolk Wildlife Trust is working to make Ipswich the most hedgehog friendly town in the UK, recruiting volunteers to improve habitats and encourage communities to act collectively to prevent numbers falling further.

    Here are five simple steps to help hedgehogs wherever you live:

    • Make sure hedgehogs can access your garden. It might sound simple, but lots of gardens have very few ground level access points. All they need is a 13cm x 13cm hole in the bottom of the fence, or gap under the gate.
    • Be a little less tidy. Hedgehogs love eating bugs, so having patches or strips of longer grass, keeping leaves on the ground and planting wildflower seeds will help create feeding habitat (and will encourage other lovely garden visitors like butterflies).
    • Have a wild corner. Create nesting habitat by having a wild corner with a log pile or piles of old vegetation – you might be rewarded by having an over-wintering hedgehog or even a family during the summer.
    • Reduce your chemical use. Slug pellets and other pesticides are harmful and reduce the prey hedgehogs rely upon. Hedgehogs are a natural pest control and are very much considered a gardener’s friend. Encourage hedgehogs and amphibians to control your slug numbers.
    • Spread the word. Encourage your neighbours to help too – hedgehogs roam around 2km in a night and so need access to lots of gardens to survive. You can become a Hedgehog Champion through the national project Hedgehog Street, or find out if you live near a more local scheme, like the SWT Ipswich Hedgehog Project.

    Find out more in our new blog.


  16. View Jocelyn Murdoch's profile Jocelyn Murdoch
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 1 day ago
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