Schoolchildren in London will be able to get hands-on with nature thanks to a new award set up in memory of OPAL’s deputy director.
The Gill Stevens Award, which will run for five years, will enable seven school groups each year to visit one of the Royal Parks for a fieldwork session led by an experienced tutor from the Field Studies Council (FSC).
The OPAL-funded scheme is named after Ms Stevens, a core part of the OPAL team in its early years, who died from cancer aged just 45 in January 2011.
FSC tutors will use activities linked to OPAL’s national surveys to show schools what can be achieved in the parks near them and encourage them to incorporate more outdoor learning into lessons.
Funding will be targeted at schools in London which are among the 20% most deprived in England.
To find out more and to apply, contact FSC London on enquiries [dot] ldn [at] field-studies-council [dot] org (subject: Gill%20Stevens%20Award) / 020 3130 0469.
The UK’s largest tree celebration is back for another year to officially launch the start of the winter tree planting season.
National Tree Week, organised by The Tree Council, is a chance for communities to get involved in tree-related events and plant new trees.
Voluntary bodies, local authorities and thousands of Tree Wardens around the country will be organising events that you can get involved in.
If National Tree Week inspires you to get more involved in protecting the UK’s trees, you can also sign up to take part in the OPAL tree health survey in 2014.
You data could help scientists learn more about the health of our trees, and about the pests and diseases that can affect them.
Photo by Flickr user Colin Campbell, some rights reserved.
Members of the public have now sent in more than 30,000 sets of results for OPAL’s seven national surveys.
Your data about your local environment has been flooding in since the launch of the first survey, on soil and earthworms, in March 2009.
When these survey results are added to the many contrail observations you have sent in as part of OPAL’s climate research, the number of records from citizen scientists in our database has reached almost 53,000.
The most popular survey so far has been the Bugs Count survey, which has attracted nearly 8,500 sets of results.
All of OPAL’s surveys are continuing to accept results. You can enter them online using our simple web forms, or post your answer notebooks to our freepost address.
Scientists from across Europe gathered in Brussels this week to hold talks on the fledgling European Citizen Science Association (ECSA).
The meeting was the first that has been held since ECSA was officially launched at EU Green Week in June.
More than 50 experts from 12 countries shared information on citizen science initiatives and voted on governance arrangements for the association, which is currently led by OPAL Director Dr Linda Davies.
Delegates voted to establish four committees which will help to drive the association forward:
- Fundraising, membership, communications, promotion and marketing
- Policy, strategy, governance and partnerships
- Standards and principles, sharing best practice and capacity building
- Projects, tools, data and technology.
The next meeting is expected to be held in Copenhagen in April 2014.
Sediment samples sent in by people across England have helped scientists learn more about freshwater metal contamination.
The OPAL metals survey, which ran alongside the national water survey over the last three years, asked people to send in small mud samples from their local ponds and lakes for analysis by the OPAL Water Centre at University College London.
Your results have shown that in many ponds there are considerable amounts of metals in the sediments which could affect organisms that live in the water.
The damaging effects of these metals would mostly be seen at the top of the food chain, in fish such as pike and fish-eating birds such as ospreys, because metals build up as they pass through the food chain – a process called bioaccumulation.
A full analysis of all the results will be published at a later date. But you can get a preview of the results now and learn more about metal contamination in your area using our interactive maps.
The OPAL Water Centre also recently published results of a four-year water monitoring study they ran alongside the metals and water surveys.
Image by Ennor on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
OPAL Water Centre scientists have published a report on their pioneering monitoring project at nine lakes across England.
Their study, which ran alongside the OPAL water survey, represents the first time some pollutants in England’s freshwaters have ever been measured or have been recorded on such a scale.
The OPAL Water Centre Monitoring Report 2008-2012 explains how they found that sediments from ponds reflect local events, national events and even international events such as radioactive fallout from Chernobyl.
OPAL scientist Dr Neil Rose said: “The data can be used to help illustrate how individual actions can have larger impacts. Our study demonstrates that environmental change is not something that only happens in remote and exotic places but happens all the time where we each live and work.”
The nine lakes are spread throughout England, from Crag Lough in Northumberland to Slapton Ley in Devon.
They were chosen for their interest to local communities, and some are affected by unusual factors such as proximity to land-fill and subsidence from mining.
Dr Simon Turner, lead author of the report, said: “Such lakes would probably be avoided in ‘traditional’ monitoring schemes so we have provided data on lake types and impacts for which there was little information.
"This work has also added considerably to the knowledge of some pollutants and our understanding of them in these ecosystems.”
Image by thornypup on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Students, staff and visitors at the University of York are being encouraged to record the wide variety of wildlife found on the campus.
A new recording website has been launched by the university’s Stockholm Environment Institute using the Indicia toolkit, which was developed with funding from OPAL.
Research associate Dr Rachel Pateman, who set up the website, said: “As part of their academic studies, many students carry out projects recording wildlife on campus such as birds or flowers, but the information rarely goes further than their notebook or computer.
“The new website will provide a central repository where all this valuable information can be stored.
"Details of sightings will also be passed on to national recording schemes which are used to inform policy research and decision-making.”
The records submitted to the website will remain open access and could be used for student projects in the future.
A public park in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, has been transformed after OPAL worked with the local community to introduce a wildflower meadow.
The meadow in King George V Park has been in full bloom throughout the summer creating a colourful carpet of daisies, poppies and other flowers for local residents and pollinators to enjoy.
It was created earlier this year after OPAL’s East Midlands team, the local school’s Extended Services Coordinator and Mansfield District Council secured funding from waste management company Veolia. Additional money for the project was also supplied by OPAL.
Local firm Naturescape prepared the area and supplied the seeds, and volunteers from Veolia helped to supervise more than 200 children from two schools – Berry Hill Primary School and St Peter’s Primary School – as they sowed the meadow in April.
With September drawing to a close, time is running out to take part in the OPAL tree health survey.
The survey is best carried out when leaves are still on the trees and signs of pests and diseases are easier to spot.
It is also a prime time to spot signs of the more common conditions that affect UK trees, such as Oak mildew and Horse Chestnut leaf miner.
Our scientists need you to take part now and ensure you send us your results – whether you spot one of our Most Unwanted pests and diseases or the tree appears to have a clean bill of health.
“The more results we receive, the more scientists can learn about tree health and the spread of pests and diseases,” said OPAL director Dr Linda Davies. “If a tree appears healthy then please let us know because your results may provide us with valuable data about the overall condition of Britain’s trees in 2013 and allow us to track future changes.”
You can download everything you need for the survey from our website and join in today with your family, friends or classmates.
Analysis of the early results you have sent in for the OPAL tree health survey has already revealed some interesting trends.
Although the results have not yet been verified, early indications are that most trees are pest and disease-free – but one particular species is more likely to be affected.
Of the trees surveyed so far, Horse Chestnuts most often displayed symptoms of pests and diseases; about 65% reportedly had leaf blotch, Leaf-miner, bleeding canker or scale.
Oak is currently the most popular tree to survey, with Oak mildew the disease most commonly reported on this species. Ash is the second most popular, and 9% of those surveyed were believed to have Ash decline.
Where the density of the crown was recorded, about two-thirds of the trees had crowns that were at least 75% full. And although half of trees surveyed had deadwood, most had only a small amount, suggesting that it was more likely to be part of the tree’s natural lifecycle.
We’ve also discovered that you’re a sociable bunch; about a quarter of surveys so far have been done with friends or family, and more than half were done in school.
But the results did show that the vast majority of surveys were carried out in England and we now need more people in Scotland and Wales to get involved in the tree health survey – the first OPAL has run outside England. You can download or request packs in English or Welsh.
Want to find out about the health of trees in your neighbourhood? Get involved in the survey and send us your results – whatever you find – to help us build a map of tree health across Britain.