OPAL invades Scotland!

Amy Styles
OPAL Community Scientist, TCV Scotland

Last Tuesday, OPAL partner organisations from all over the UK descended on the tiny island of Millport (a.k.a. Greater Cumbrae apparently) off the western coast of Scotland.

The location was stunning for a gathering of people keen to make a difference by promoting citizen science throughout the country. This was a daunting excursion for me as I am the newly-appointed OPAL Community Scientist in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and I have only been in the post for a few weeks.

FSC Millport in the sun

Luckily all the staff from Imperial College London and all the OPAL partners made me feel welcome with their warmth and friendly approach to life. Fortunately I was not the only newbie in the gang, other newly appointed (and some that hadn’t officially started yet) Community Scientists were in the same boat as me and were having to take a lot of information in over the next few days.

The meeting of all the partners and the training days that followed were a great starting point to get inspiration about what could be achieved and it got me thinking of future projects. The partners brought a lot of inspirational ideas, thoughts and worldly knowledge to the table. The knowledge base covered by the combined efforts off all the partners was immense and definitely something that will be of great benefit to the project.

Alongside getting to know people, sharing knowledge and words of wisdom, it was nice to get involved in some practical work. We delved into the OPAL survey packs and tried and tested them with each other. I resorted back into a child-like state of bewilderment where I asked lots of questions and I wanted to know everything about anything.

Trying our hand at the OPAL Air Survey

Trialling the surveys and talking to others allowed us to come up with exciting methods that could be used to enhance the surveying experience: how educational progressions could be made from survey to survey, how the surveys would work with different groups and how to enhance them further. We concluded that perhaps the survey itself was not the most important aspect of learning; it was the whole holistic experience of being outdoors and discovering nature.

As I came away from Millport I realised I had taken away some new ideas, gained more knowledge and met some truly inspiring people. I think it is important that we don’t forget that as a team of people we, the OPAL partners, have a wealth of knowledge and ideas. If we help each other, spread our strengths and share good practice we will achieve a lot more!

You can also see some behind-the-scenes pictures from the meeting on Facebook.