How are you using OPAL to make a difference in the community?
I work for the John Muir Trust helping to manage its people engagement initiative, the John Muir Award. We feel that citizen science and OPAL adds real value to people's experiences of wild places.
How did you first discover/get involved with OPAL?
We've been aware of OPAL for a number of years, but it was funding that OPAL secured in Scotland two years ago that helped us focus on encouraging, raising awareness of, and sharing OPAL resources across our network of organisations and people delivering the John Muir Award.
What do you enjoy most about using OPAL resources / What has been your favourite moment while using them?
There are lots of things we like about OPAL and other citizen science resources, but off the top of my head we like them because they:
- are appealing to people where they are at (you can do them in your garden or a national park and anywhere in between)
- allow for different depth of involvement/experiences (you can use them as simple starter activities or build whole projects around them)
- embrace technology (wild time and tech time can converge, technology can help to be part of an environmental solution)
- promote nature connection (immersion in OPAL resources can help people tune into nature, and offers a chance to contribute or put something back)
- help tell positive stories/narratives (showing people as part of the solution and that all our survey results matter and are valued)
Which is your favourite OPAL survey and why?
We've found that the Tree Health survey resonates with a lot of people who remember the Ash Dieback outbreak a few years ago, but that also people get very quickly into soil and earthworms - fascinating stuff under our feet!
Where is your favourite place to enjoy nature and why?
Anywhere really where there is a sense of wildness. Woods are probably my preferred habitat - they make me feel calm, restored and energised!
What is the most interesting/unusual/beautiful plant or animal you’ve ever seen?
So hard to choose. I’m always seeing new wonderful things and learning along the way. It’s probably the smallest things though that have the wow factor for me. I recently took the time to watch a spider in my garden make its web from scratch. It was amazing.
Who/what inspired you to work in your community?
Of course I would say John Muir - surprise surprise! He might seem like some distant Victorian historical figure to some, but his message - that we all need to experience, enjoy and care for wild places - is as relevant today as it ever was. Find out more here.
What advice would you give to people who want to encourage their communities to get involved in science and nature?
Start on your doorstep, focus on enjoyment, keep things simple to begin with, and remember (to paraphrase Richard Feynman) you don't have to know the name of something to know something - we are all environmentalists, and we can all get involved.
Any funny stories from working with a group or any moments that made you proud?
We work with a lot of teachers, youth workers, outdoor instructors and volunteers. Many of these people would not class themselves as scientists, and so it is great to see these different people enthusiastically embrace science and nature surveys in ways that they are comfortable with. Groups always love the tree measuring (Tree Health) and playing with mud (Soil Survey) - it's such active fun learning.
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.