The University of Aberdeen is part of a programme which will allow people in the North-east to get involved and contribute to scientific research on their own doorsteps.
People of all ages will be able to try their hand at ‘citizen science’ as a team from the University will lead the North East Scotland branch of the Open Air Laboratories programme (OPAL). OPAL, is led by Imperial College London with support from the Big Lottery Fund, and has been inspiring communities in England to discover, enjoy and protect their local environment since 2007.
Annie Robinson, Keith Marshall and René van der Wal are running the University of Aberdeen’s OPAL programme and are working with schools and community groups in both rural and inner city areas in the North-east of Scotland to help people spend more time outdoors learning about their local environment.
The team carry out surveys of which there are 6 to choose from, each with a different focus. From mini-beasts and earthworms to tree health and air quality, there are a variety of subjects to engage with. The surveys can be run as free outdoor learning sessions at schools and community groups, or survey resources can be downloaded for free here or requested from OPAL at the University of Aberdeen. The work also focuses on issues of local interest such as introduced species. A range of organisations including universities, wildlife groups, and museums, are working in partnership throughout the UK to deliver the programme’s citizen science activities.
Citizen scientists have already used lichens to identify areas affected by air pollution and discovered that earthworm diversity is high in back gardens. The expansion of OPAL’s surveys now means that scientists will be able to track the spread of invasive species, such as the damaging Chalara ash dieback disease, as well as find out more about the differences between urban and rural biodiversity.
Annie said: “OPAL is a fantastic way to find out all about the nature that is right outside your own door.
“It is extremely exciting to be involved in the expansion of this programme throughout Scotland. I am sure that anyone who gets involved – from the young to the more mature – will enjoy the various activities we offer.
“Not only is this a great way for people to learn about the environment which surrounds us, but it also helping scientists learn and gather information about areas they may never normally have the opportunity to study.”