25 January 2013
A report launched at the House of Lords by Government minister Lord de Mauley and Lord Selborne on 22 January 2013, has been hailed as demonstrating the impact of the national OPAL science and research programme.
Dr Mark Toogood, of UCLan’s School of Built and Natural Environment, is the North West regional director of OPAL and the research lead on public understanding of science nationally.
OPAL - Open Air Laboratories, is the largest citizen science project of its kind - engaging the public and giving them the resources, skills and knowledge both to participate in surveys and to continue caring for their local environment.
“Our research has shown that OPAL has resulted in people spending more time outdoors exploring nature, changed their behaviour towards the environment, and has broadened people’s natural history knowledge”
Over half a million people have actively participated in OPAL since its launch in 2007 – activities include examining trees and hedges; allotments and woodlands; and parks, gardens and playing fields.
More than 25,000 sites across England have been studied and the information submitted to the OPAL database for analysis - in many cases, these surveys have provided a first look at places, particularly urban areas of deprivation, that have never before been studied by scientists.
“Scientists now know more about the state of England’s environment”
Dr Toogood said: “Our research has shown that OPAL has resulted in people spending more time outdoors exploring nature, changed their behaviour towards the environment, and has broadened people’s natural history knowledge. Moreover, scientists now know more about the state of England’s environment. We are now examining funding options for the OPAL programme to further enhance public participation in biodiversity and environmental monitoring and research.”
The House of Lords event was also attended by Shadow Environment Secretary, Mary Creagh, MP; former UK chief scientist Lord May, the Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, the heads of NERC and EPSRC, as well as several members of the House of Lords Science and Technology committee and heads of Government research bodies.