OPAL UK Year 2 summary

OPAL staff in Newcastle upon Tyne park

OPAL Director, Dr David Slawson, provides an update on Year 2 project progress and reveals what will follow.

The great news is that OPAL's excellent work in Year 1 has been continued over Year 2.

People reached

In 2015, through our network of fantastic community scientists, we reached 85,513 people, 18,469 of whom were from disadvantaged communities. When added to participants reached since 2007, OPAL has now engaged with over 900,000 people.

We also developed an accreditation scheme and 134 participants received a certificate for ‘Completing an OPAL Survey’.

Surveys launched

New Zealand Flatworm survey card

The major focus of activity in 2015 was to launch 6 revised environmental surveys across UK in May 2015, so that OPAL is now well and truly established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There were nearly 50 million 'opportunities to see or hear' about the launch in the media, including 3 TV slots, 3 radio slots, 39 features in print and online; featured in: Sunday Times, BBC News Online, Springwatch Extra, Radio Scotland, Radio Cymru, UTV, Bloomberg and The RHS Garden magazine.

Networks extended

Up to the end of 2015, we have worked with over 700 organisations and, through our partners across the UK, we brought organisations together through a series of stimulating National Networking Events, including:

Healthy by Nature conference attendees

Teachers trained

We have an aim to create a new generation of environmentalists and so it is pleasing to report that we have trained a total 2,633 teachers to use OPAL surveys to help them deliver parts of the national curricula.

What next?

Girl with bee facepaint

2016 represents the last year of this current phase of OPAL, and we have a challenging programme of activity planned to reach even more people, providing them with new skills, to share our lessons learnt, to ensure the OPAL legacy by embedding our resources into the work of other organisations, and to share our data on the health of the environment with national databases, making all our data openly accessible for anyone who wishes to use it for their own research.

More specifically, in 2016:

  • It will be close, but we might, just might, reach the magic 1 million mark of people engaged by OPAL
  • In addition to the existing OPAL surveys, we will be launching some new and exciting surveys and activities, including:
    • On 2 May we will launch the Polli:Nation survey of habitats and pollinating insects as part of the Polli:Nation project
    • Through our OPAL partners at University of York, we will launch a new activity to survey brownfield sites, which are a real treasure chest of nature
    • Have a major push to get more records on the presence and absence of New Zealand Flatworm across the country, including sending out survey cards to gardeners in the June issue of the RHS Garden magazine
  • We will continue to publish our results in scientific journals, including a 5-paper supplement on 'Citizen Science through the OPAL lens' in the BioMed Central Ecology Journal, and to publish plain English summaries of up-coming papers on the OPAL website
  • We will extend accreditation to ‘Leading an OPAL Survey’ and are piloting an OPAL open learning course run through our partners at Queen’s University, Belfast
  • We will hold more National Networking events, starting with 'Neighbours with Nature' in Rawmarsh, South Yorkshire on 14 May
  • We will hold an end of project conference and publish an end of project report
  • Finally, over the year, we will also develop new partnerships and bids to keep OPAL going into 2017 and beyond.

- Dr David Slawson, OPAL Director