Community Champion: Roseanna Burton

Roseanna BurtonRoseanna Burton
Sheffield, South Yorkshire 

How are you using OPAL to make a difference in the community?

As part of my role as a project officer for the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership  (DVLP) I am using the OPAL surveys to inspire local communities to get more involved with recording local wildlife, help raise awareness and understanding of biodiversity in the Dearne, enhance biological records and influence better site management.

I am working with OPAL using a ‘Train the Trainer’ approach to help engage and train new volunteers in wildlife surveying, giving them the skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver further.

How did you first discover/ get involved with OPAL?

I first discovered OPAL when I volunteered for the Sheffield Black and Ethnic Minority Environmental Network (SHEBEEN) in 2012. We used the surveys to engage with hard to reach community groups, explore their cultural perceptions of the environment and help raise awareness of environmental protection.

The first OPAL survey I ever did was the old Climate Change Survey, with over 60 school children and members of SHEBEEN.

After my voluntary roles I went on to work for the RSPB, in which I became more actively involved with the full programme of surveys and resources available, so began incorporating these into my community engagement activities.

What do you enjoy most about using OPAL resources/ what has been your favourite moment while using them?

OPAL ID Guide to BatsI enjoy many aspects of the OPAL surveys, including how user friendly they are for first timers, however the ID guides are a personal favourite of mine that come specific to each survey pack and have the power to engage people with the environment in a simple yet effective way.

My favourite moment of using the surveys is watching people get hands on with nature, seeing their perceptions change, and that most of them have learnt something new.

It is unbelievably rewarding to see people wanting to do more for their local environment as a result of their survey experience.

The fact they are a free resource is even better too, meaning they are accessible to all, as nature should be.

Which is your favourite OPAL survey and why?

My favourite OPAL survey is the Biodiversity one.

I love how varied this survey is, as it looks at a number of aspects including the plants and wildlife visible, and allows participants to delve a bit deeper in looking at what wildlife inhabits our hedgerows.

I love the practical element of collecting samples, as many invertebrates are often undervalued, so it is great to count the little things that can often be missed, as well as getting up close and personal to many species using magnify pots to aid identification. 

Where is your favourite place to enjoy nature and why?

Dearne Valley by Tim CleasbyMy personal favourite place to explore nature is back in my hometown close to Sherwood Forest where I grew up and first fell in love with wildlife.

However through my current work with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership I have started to discover some beautiful places for nature in the Dearne, including the ancient woods of Wombwell and the Trans Pennine Trail from Elsecar, which is teeming with wildlife.

RSPB Old Moor is another personal favourite, where I often enjoy doing a spot of bird watching.

What is the most interesting/unusual/beautiful plant or animal you’ve ever seen?

Brown long-eared bat in the handThe most interesting animal I have seen has to be a Brown Long-eared Bat on the hand.

I am a registered bat carer for the Bat Conservation Trust and have fallen in love with bats over the years.

I love to watch them on a summer's night and take my bat detector, often walking along the river Dearne.

But most of all I love rehabilitating them, ready for release, and seeing them up close. They all have very distinct personalities and are very beautiful mammals, which receive a lot of bad publicity.

But this has to be a close call with a Nightjar, following my experience of helping ring one last summer, listening to their robotic churring, and seeing their wing displays.

Who/what inspired you to work in your community?

My dad actually inspired me to get into nature conservation. From  the age of 4, he would take me walking to watch the hares boxing in the fields close to home. As time passed I began to develop a greater interest in wildlife.

I eventually decided to volunteer at my local nature reserve, and then pursued a career via my degree in Environmental Conservation at university. 

My passion began to grow and enthuse others, until I eventually got a job with the RSPB, and then today with the DVLP, which gave me the opportunity to learn more and engage others. 

The Dearne is a great area which is very undervalued due to its past industrial heritage, but actually has an abundance of hidden assets for nature and heritage. I strive to enthuse and inspire others to share the sense of appreciation and passion I have for the local environment on a day to day basis, in the hope we can protect and preserve these assets for future generations.

What advice would you give to people who want to encourage their communities to get involved in science and nature?

The best piece of advice I can offer is getting out there and get hands on with nature. Don’t be scared that you are new to it, we all start somewhere, as long as you have the passion and determination.

The more advocates we have for nature the greater chance we have of protecting and preserving our environment for the future. Not to mention the sheer sense of satisfaction you get from inspiring others to appreciate their local environment and the benefits to our local wildlife, and to those of us who enjoy getting outdoors.

Follow Roseanna on Twitter: @batlover89

About OPAL Community Champions

The OPAL Community Champions scheme aims to acknowledge the contribution made by individuals to the OPAL network, to thank people for their efforts, and to act as an inspiration for others.

Over the next few weeks and months we'll be profiling 20 Community Champions, nominated by OPAL's team of Community Scientists from across the UK.

Photo credits: Brown Long-eared Bat by Alastair Rae, CC BY-SA 2.0