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5 brilliant citizen science projects for spring

Did you know that you can enjoy wildlife AND help conservation science at the same time? Citizen science projects, where people around the country (or the world) make and record observations, which are then used by scientists for research, are a great way of helping gather important data.

5 citizen science projects for spring

For example, if scientists want to know how widespread across the country a particular type of plant is, or how early in the year bluebells start to bloom, you need a lot of observations to get a good spread of data. There might only be a few scientists working on this, and even with modern technology it would be hard for them to gather enough themselves. But there are thousands of people who can record that data, often just from walking in their local area or observing wildlife in their gardens.

Most citizen science projects have brilliant websites to go with them that explain what you need to do clearly and simply, and make it easy to upload your observations directly. They’ll even keep you up to date with how the research is progressing, and you can look at the data other people have uploaded too.

Earthworm Watch

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We want you to find out how many worms are at the bottom of your garden…and at the top…and in the middle! Worms are a great way of finding out how healthy the soil is. Soil is essential for plant health, not to mention all the millions of animals and insects that call it home, and it’s also a carbon store, trapping atmospheric carbon.

Worms are important for keeping soil healthy, but we don’t know what impact some of the gardening we do might have on them. Does moving the top soil or adding fertiliser help, harm or make no difference? These are some of the questions scientists are hoping to answer, and you can help.

All you need to do is dig two small holes and count the worms, with the whole process taking around an hour. The full list of instructions are listed on the Earthworm Watch website, and that’s also where you can upload your results.

April and May are the best time to do this, as that’s when the worms are most active. So what are you waiting for? Get surveying in your garden, school grounds or allotments.

Find out more on the Earthworm Watch website.


Big Seaweed Search

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If you’re off to the seaside this spring or summer, and like to explore the rock pools, then the Big Seaweed Search is right up your street.

The project is all about plotting where different species of seaweed can be found around the UK’s coastline. Different types of seaweed like different conditions and different temperatures: by plotting how different seaweed species are distributed, and how this changes over time, scientists hope to be able to see how things like climate change effect where these species can be found. It’s also useful for tracking alien or invasive species that aren’t native to our shores.

Seaweed is an important food source for many marine animals, so it’s important to get a good idea of whats going on with it, as it will in turn affect other organisms further up the food chain.

Find out more and take part on the Big Seaweed Search website, at the Natural History Museum. 


Nature’s Calendar

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Every year, the seasons follow a similar pattern – in spring, the days get longer, the weather gets milder, the trees begin to grow leaves again, spring flowers bloom and birds and animals wake from hibernation or fly back to our shores.

But, it seems, things aren’t quite working out the way they used to. The weather has become unseasonal and unpredictable, caused by a changing climate, which can disrupt the normal patters. Working out how these have been disrupted, and what effects this might have on other species, is important.

The Nature’s Calendar project will tell you what things you need to look out for – things like the first time you see certain flowers, the first time you spot baby birds, or the first time you spot buds on a tree, as well as observing many different species of plant, animals and birds. You can record all your information on the website, and that will also show you the results they have so far. Useful, fascinating and a great class project.

Find out more and takeout on the Natures Calendar website, run by the Woodland Trust.


Nature Overheard – the impact of noise

Join the Nature Overheard citizen science project

This brand new and exciting Citizen Science project looks at the impact of noise pollution from roads on insects, and was suggested by young people as something they were interested in finding out more about.

Insects rely on sound to communicate, but roads are often loud, creating lots of noice that makes it harder for insects to hear properly. Imagine trying to make yourself heard in a huge room full of people talking loudly and engines revving! This is a problem because if insects can’t hear each other, it makes it harder to avoid danger, find food and find a mate to reproduce. And this is also a problem for humans and the environment because insects are an important part of the ecosystem, providing food for other organisms, pollinating plants, burrowing into the soil, breaking down plant matter and lots more besides.

This study asks participants to listen to insect noise near their local roads, and record what they hear online. There’s even a handy guide in Zooniverse to help identify what you’re listening to.

Read more and take part on the Nature Overheard website, hosted by the Natural History Museum. 


Mammal Web

Got a wildlife camera trap set up? Then you can use your images to help us get a better understanding of mammals in the wild, in this worldwide project! And even if you don’t there’s ways to take part in this citizen science project.

Mammal Web collects information from motion sensing camera traps, which take pictures of animals when they move past them – their motion triggers the camera to take a picture. This information is really useful for getting a better understanding of where wild mammals are, and how many there are.

But to get the best possible picture, LOTS of data is needed, which is one of the ways you can help. Lots of people now have camera traps, and they are a great fun way of spotting wildlife and learning about what’s in your local area, without having to sit out all day and night trying to spot it yourself! All you need to do is upload the pictures from your camera trap to the Mammal Web recorder.

If you don’t have a camera trap, you can still help as a ‘spotter’. All those pictures need to be identified after all, so you can help by volunteering your time to identify what mammals are in the photographs people have uploaded.

Read more and take part on the Mammal Web website. 


More citizen science projects

The Wildlife Trusts have regional citizen science projects

The Wildlife Trusts also have several regional citizen science projects running, so if you’re in a particular part of the country, you might want to join one of those. They include spotting hedgehogs in Cumbria and exploring the Secrets of the Solent in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Visit the Wildlife Trusts citizen science page for more information. 

The Natural History Museum in London has lots of amazing citizen science projects running that you can join in with, from spotting mitten crabs to searching for colourful starfish. Incorporate them into your walks, your weekends, and your holidays!

Visit the Natural History Museum community science page.


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