Citizen Science

Free Course "Citizen science and global biodiversity"

This free course deals with the importance of biodiversity and explores how anyone can contribute to and be involved in identifying and recording wildlife, as a citizen scientist. It looks at what citizen science is, and how citizen science facilitates public involvement in scientific research activities as individuals learn and build skills.

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science uses the power of collaborative volunteer research to collect much broader sets of data than academic researchers on their own would be able to build.  There are citizen science initiatives in many disciplines, but this section focusses on those of most relevance to gardeners. 

The main studies here are monitoring the health, behaviour or abundance of animals normally found in gardens, such as pollinators.  The other studies, including our own local survey, monitor non-native species of plants and animals that are a significant threat to UK biodiversity.  The risk of ecological disasters is increasing because of climate change, and so monitoring and dealing with invasive species before they become a problem is critical.

These local and national initiatives are important in building a picture of new threats and the extent of established invasive species.  I hope that you can take some time to look and report your observations*.

Full details of all the surveys can be found in the two subsections, Local and National.


Rosemary beetles (Chrysolina americana)

Image credit: Hectonichus

National Surveys

These are surveys and schemes for plants and animals that aren't included in the Local Species Survey.  Such as identifying garden plants that might become invasive, and surveying pollinator numbers and behaviour.

Local Species Recording

Investigating whether some of the most worrying invasive species have established populations in our area.    See the Local Species Survey page to learn more and to submit sightings.  The results so far are shown on the map below.

Local Species Survey: Results So Far

The non-native red-legged partridge and ring-necked pheasant are excluded as they are bred and released in large numbers for shooting (ca. 60 million birds in the UK RSPB).

A Success Story: Subterranean Termites

In October 2021, a colony of Mediterranean Termites (Reticulitermes grassei) that had become established in Devon was declared eradicated after 27 years of biosecurity and eradication effort.  

Had the termites spread, they could have become a significant financial burden to householders and the economy.   Although much of the UK is too wet for termites, with global heating, drier areas of the country like East Anglia, could well have been at risk. 

For more on this story see The Guardian.

Subterranean termite (Reticulitermes sp.)

Image credit: Hans Hillewaert