People in green space

Citizen Science suitable for community groups

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Working with existing local monitoring projects

Close to you, there will be a Local Nature Reserve, managed through the Local Authority Ranger Service or an area of parkland, woods, moorland or a stretch of river or coast managed by a charity such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust or RSPB.  Monitoring activities at these sites will help to identify how well the species on the site are doing and will link in with the aims of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan. Community groups and individuals can join in with both the monitoring activities and practical site improvement work. 

Carrying out Citizen Science at a Local Nature Reserve gives you the opportunity to get involved with a local area that has already been identified as valuable for wildlife. Your activity will contribute to the aims for the reserve that have been defined in a Management Plan. As well as monitoring there are likely to be other activities to join in with, such as getting involved in habitat management or improving access.  Working with the guidance of a local ranger or reserve manager will provide you with training, encouragement and a knowledgeable source of expertise. Tools and equipment are also likely to be provided. A map of Local Nature Reserves and contacts can be found here.

It's not just wildlife recording you can help with. The monitoring of the physical environment is equally as important and through existing and developing programmes every science dicipline offers opportunities for Citizen Science engagement. For example, communities can participate in monitoring of rainfall with SEPA , river levels through Scottish Flood Forum and local weather, through programmes such as the Met Office Weather Observation Website.

Working with local Biological Record Centres

Local Biological Records Centres collect, collate and disseminate information about the wildlife and provide objective, independent wildlife information for people and organisations. The services that Record Centres provide are funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and Local Authorities and can receive income from contract work, projects and voluntary contributions.

Record Centres are the focal point for recording of local wildlife (biological recording) and regularly run training and surveys that locals can join in with. Their staff are extremely experienced and provide support to submit records and develop identification skills. They are also at the heart of a local network of knowledgeable local 'recorders'. Through your local Records Centre you can link up with experienced Citizen Scientists keen to share their expertise. You can also develop your identification skills through participating in your local Records Centre programme of events. Local Record Centres also are a good source of support for Bioblitz activities that community groups can use to survey, celebrate and promote their local greenspaces.

National surveys suitable for use by Community Groups

Many conservation charities have established UK-wide Citizen Science surveys that the public are encouraged to participate in. Online support, identification guides and resources are available and many of these charities hold local training courses organised though their network of volunteers and supporters that can help individuals or groups build confidence in their recording abilities.

These national surveys cover a wide range of species and habitats and can be tailored to suit your community group's interests and abilities.  Working with these organisations, you will be introduced to a variety of survey techniques and be able to develop your skills and confidence. The conservation charities that run the surveys are often able to provide local support to start using the surveys and develop identification skills. They are also able to work with community groups to help them set up monitoring and conservation projects.

See a comprehensive list of surveys and links to the organisations.

Top tips for getting your community involved in Citizen Science

  • Plan well ahead. Many surveys are seasonally restrictive, so advertise for volunteers well in advance and have everything ready to start the surveying at the most appropriate time.
  • Share the load. Make sure that more than one person takes on the responsibility. Sharing the work makes it more fun and means the project will still go ahead if a key person leaves.
  • Tell the world. Get the message out as much as possible using Facebook, blogs, tweets and putting up posters to get as many people as you can to join in.
  • Gather support. Seek out other local interest groups, gardening clubs, elderly groups, scouts/guides. People with a similar interest, spare time or eager to help out are there for you to engage with.
  • Ask for help. Some Citizen Science projects are supported by their creators with guides and other materials to help with the surveys. There may even be local support services and training available near you.