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article imageNew citizen science project launches in the U.K.

By Tim Sandle     May 18, 2015 in Science
London - A huge citizen science project, utilizing more than 850,000 volunteers, has recently expanded its reach to include projects across all of the U.K.
Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), already established in England, is being rolled out across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. OPAL projects to date have collected data relating to pests, air pollution, and wildlife. The projects are key examples of 'citizen science.' Citizen science refers to scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or non-professional scientists.
OPAL has been running since 2007. The aims are to encourage people to interact with nature and key environmental issues; provide a learning experience and promote people getting out of doors; and to collect valuable data to help professional scientists understand the state of the environment.
One key finding is that pests, such as the New Zealand flat worm, tend to spread from the south of England and towards the north. The invasive flatworm feeds on earthworms, and the loss of earthworms is bad for the soil.
One of the new projects concerns the horse chestnut leaf-mining moth. This moth has risen in numbers England and researchers are keen to find out if it has spread to Scotland or Northern Ireland. The caterpillar of the moth causes damage to trees. Another project concerns looking at water quality by counting the insects found around local ponds and streams.
While citizen science is flourishing in the U.K., the situation has receded in the U.S., at least if Wyoming is anything to go by. Wyoming has, in essence, made citizen science a crime. The state has placed restrictions on people photographing the environment and then making any comments about any deterioration to the natural world.
There is better news in Canada. Nature Watch and the Toronto Zoo are encouraging Canadians to get into their backyards and local parks and contribute to scientific research through citizen science projects.
More about Citizen science, Nature, Wildlife, Exploration
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