Friday, 24 July 2015

Citizen Science... Your Nature needs you!

With the EU having a public consultation on the Habitat, Birds and Natura 2000 directives with a view to 'watering down' some of its powers, the UK's wildlife and wild spaces need support like never before.(have your say here link takes you to Birdlife Internationals campaign page!). In these times of relentless development, insatiable human greed and pressure for constant economic growth, it is all too easy to ask 'what can I do about it?'.

Citizen Science....... Citizen science is defined as 'scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions' - Oxford English Dictionary 2014

The problem with citizen science as it stands, is peoples attitude towards it. They either believe its is reserved for the anorak wearing bearded man or that they need special interests in the subject to take part. This is simply not true, you don't have to meet these stereotypes to be able to help out. Many of the projects out there could not only help us better understand the marches of climate change, or declines in species or even the impact we have on certain species but are also amazing fun to take part in.

Project Splatter, is a research effort to quantify and map wildlife roadkill across the UK. The kids will LOVE this! This is something that families can do on long road trips. incetivise the kids to call out what they see, you record it down and submit it..... beats a game of eye-spy or listening to Dads music all the way and takes the kids minds off the mind crippling boredom of the M25.

Big Butterfly Count championed by none other than Sir David Attenborough, requires you to sit in a sunny spot and record what you see. Don't know your Meadow Brown from your Small Tortoiseshell? Never fear, they have even produced a colourful ID Guide to help you out. The also have some great ideas for getting the family involved here. Picnics, Play Dates, BBQs your choice!

Natures Calendar is something Springwatch viewers will be vaguely familiar with. Record when you see certain things during your day to day routine and Natures calendar collect the data and map how quickly Spring/ Autumn moves across the UK. After a few years of datasets it is possible to spot trends on whether Spring is early or late and map these to global trends to see how climate change affects the seasons and local weather. All you need to do is look out for common signs, such as Bluebells and Lapwings and record when and where you saw them..... Easy!

Garden Wildlife Health Found Dead or sick wildlife in your garden? Tell the project, they are looking for diseases particularly in order to mitigate their spread and monitor possible human and domestic implications too. Run by a collective of the ZSL, BTO, Froglife and the RSPB.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch arguably the biggest citizen science project in the UK and open for anyone to participate. From a stone inner city courtyard to a rolling farm in the Yorkshire Dales. 1 hour is all you need to give. Count the birds of each species and send your results in. 8.5 million birds were recorded last year by BGBW participants last year. Small 'garden' field guides are available so you don't even have to have had any experience. Help the kids decide what's what by picking out key ID points, get them to count or alert you to any new species that have slipped into your garden.

EuroBirdwatch if you happen to be reading this thinking hang on a minute James that's great by I live on maninland Europe..... EuroBirdWatch is the project for you. A range of events that monitor and record European Bird Migration to give a large data set and trends Europe wide.

 If the pressure of providing data for analysis is just not your thing then there are very simple ways you can help out without recording data. Plant a small section of Wildflowers to encourage Bees, Butterflies and Hoverflies, this can be done in window boxes or even an old Welly if space is critical. The good folks over at SeedBall have a really simple and devastatingly effective way of doing this so check it out. And for inspiration check out Dave Goulsons books 'A sting in the tale' or 'A buzz in the meadow'.

Place Hogitats to give Hedgehogs somewhere to rest and hibernate. Make Hedgehog corridors through your fences. Build a small pond, or scrape to allow amphibians somewhere to live and give other animals a place to drink.

Bird feeders and boxes are just as simple. If you want to go upmarket you can even get them with cameras that connect to your TV or PC so you can monitor the inhabitants.

Bat boxes will give our declining bat numbers somewhere to roost during the day.

And finally telling any idiot that thinks that Fox Hunting, Raptor Persecution or Seagull culls are justified to GET IN THE SEA will go a long way!

This post has come to fruition following a conversation with a number of friends of mine that always say they want new fun things to do, especially with families. Families have become increasingly sedentary in their lifestyles and are losing their connection with Nature! If you truly feel #itsmynature then help it out! You make think your data is lost in the grand scheme of things, but if we all thought like that we would never get anything done! It only takes one person to get a wheel to move!