Community Champions: Jon Berry & Nature In Mind

Jon Berry & Nature in Mind
Nottingham, England

**Responses below are from Jon Berry, and the clients and volunteers of the Nature in Mind project**

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

Spreading information in the community makes people feel a part of something. People enjoy the outdoor practical side of interacting with nature rather than an indoors activity. People enjoy learning new things. The OPAL surveys help people understand the environment and issues like air pollution.

How did you first discover/get involved with OPAL?

We heard about OPAL through one of our volunteers who passed on a contact number to us. We now do one activity a month with OPAL.

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

The survey sheets are extremely useful – well laid out, with good information, lots of pictures (good for people who can’t read so well), and easy to understand.

We’ve enjoyed meeting the staff and making use of their knowledge. We enjoy the atmosphere and sense of togetherness that comes with the activities. Learning about knopper galls and how they affect the oak tree was really interesting. 

Which is your favourite OPAL survey and why?

All the surveys are fun. Bugs Count is great for working with groups.

The Air Quality survey and looking at lichens are a favourite. There is a hidden world that you can only see through a lens or microscope.  You get immersed in the tiny world of lichens so that other issues seem to fade away.

Where is your favourite place to enjoy nature and why?

Sherwood Forest because it has some of the oldest trees in Europe.  

Wollaton Park because it’s free and easy to get to. 

Anywhere in the countryside, where I can get out of the city.

Wherever it’s green and peaceful. Wherever I am. Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my park.

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

A goldcrest, and recently we saw a male and female peregrine falcon perched on the side of a building.

Silver birch and snowdrop – the first tree back after the glaciers retreated and a flower that looks delicate but can handle the harsh winter. Both are incredible symbols of resilience.

Muntjac – they look really primeval.

A mole poking its head out of a hole in the snow.

A human being.

Who/what inspired you to work in your community?

There needs to be something that helps a community jell together. People get such a lot out of being in the natural environment that can include company, fresh air and exercise, and education, leading to improved self-worth, confidence, and better mental health.

I wanted to be involved because of an understanding of how nature can help people to be well.

I was pushed from a place of turmoil towards nature to find an antidote to the chaos.

I worked in schools and saw how doing practical activities outside can engage kids and help them to learn and focus on everything else. I realised the same could be true for adults. Practical activities outside help people to open up and relax.

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

Tell people how important the environment is for their health and well-being. Put on taster sessions - let people know that the information they provide can make a real difference. It can be fun and enjoyable, and you learn such a lot from it.

Come with an open mind and give it a go!

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 our Community Champions who are nominated by OPAL's team of Community Scientists from across the UK.

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