Grey squirrel

OPAL inspires thousands to discover the outdoors

22 January 2013

More than half a million people across the country have been inspired to discover their local environment through OPAL.

A report published today has revealed that the project, led by Imperial College London and supported by a Big Lottery Fund grant, has also mapped more than 25,000 sites across England, including areas never sampled before by scientists.

OPAL Community Environment Report cover

The Community Environment Report, which presents the interim findings from the past five years of OPAL’s activities, also reveals some unexpected facts, such as the diversity of earthworms in domestic gardens.

It also shows one-fifth of survey participants (more than 100,000 people) were from disadvantaged or hard-to-reach communities, including young people not in education or training, minority ethnic communities and people with mental health issues.

OPAL director Linda Davies, of Imperial College London, said: “OPAL is a new, boundary-expanding experiment, both in doing scientific research and reaching out to the public at the same time.

A family taking part in OPAL activities

“We hope that the work done so far has gone some way to help address the need for increased environmental awareness, as well as provide important new information about the environment.

“However, scientists, government and – most importantly – the community, must continue to work together in order for real progress to be made.”

The report was launched at a reception at the House of Lords on Monday evening, where Local Environment Minister Lord de Mauley praised OPAL's work.