Just a few weeks remain to send in your results for our climate survey, including your contrail observations.
The survey, which was launched in spring 2011 in partnership with the Met Office, will draw to a close on 31 March 2014.
Activities 1, 2 and 3 from the survey will come to an end as Met Office experts analyse the results you have sent in during the last three years, including more than 3,200 full surveys and a staggering 23,000 contrail observations.
The findings from these results will be published on the OPAL website later this year.
But you’ll still be able to take part in our thermal comfort activity (PDF, 264KB) to help us learn about how we could be adapting to our climate, and find a wealth of information about weather and climate on our website.
With the UK marking Climate Week from 3-9 March, there’s never been a better time to get involved, complete your OPAL Climate Survey and send the results to our experts.
The OPAL tree health survey has been recognised at Defra’s annual Team Awards, winning the department’s Civil Service Reform Award.
The project was praised by Defra as a "unique, highly innovative partnership" and Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service, presented the award to OPAL and Fera staff at the central London ceremony.
Thousands of people across the UK signed up to take part and survey the health of trees in their neighbourhoods, while checking for evidence of potentially harmful pests and diseases.
Roger Fradera, OPAL Portfolio Manager, said: “We felt really honoured just to be nominated for the award; to win was well beyond our expectations but it is a real credit to everyone that was involved in the OPAL tree health survey.
"That includes our partners who helped us develop the survey, various experts from organisations passionate about trees, all the OPAL staff across our network, and in particular, the members of the public who gave up their time to carry out the survey spotting invasive pests and diseases that are such a threat to our natural heritage."
The Fera plant health team will need to clear even more room on their mantelpiece, after also taking home the Innovation award for their ‘Stop the Spread’ garden at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
2013’s hot summer gave wildlife a much-needed boost, National Trust specialists have said.
After six consecutive years of poor summers, the sunshine of July and August helped many species – particularly insects such as butterflies, bees and grasshoppers – to flourish.
Many plants and grasses also had a successful year and there was “an explosion of nuts, berries and seeds” later in the year.
The late arrival of spring caused difficulties for some species such as owls, frogs and mammals coming out of hibernation, but the National Trust observed that many birds and animals recovered well once summer was underway.
“The way our butterflies and other sun-loving insects bounced back in July was utterly amazing, showing nature’s powers of recovery at their best,” said Matthew Oates, the Trust’s specialist on nature and wildlife.
He added: “Importantly, we have seen more winners than losers in our wildlife year, which is a tremendous result, considering where we were last year.”
‘Winners’ in 2013 included the tree bumblebee, which continued to spread across the UK. You can help track the tree bumblebee’s progress in 2014 with our Species Quest.
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.