Learning how to identify wildlife can connect us with nature

Learning how to identify wildlife can connect us with nature - Global :

Learning how to identify wildlife can connect us with nature

State of Nature 2019 Blog - iSpotnature.org 

Janice Ansine, Senior Project Manager - Citizen Science, The Open University

UK wildlife continues to decline across a range of species and habitats. Butterflies, moths and mammals are some of the affected, amounting to a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife studied since the 1970s. This is the stark message from the recently published State of Nature 2019 report which is collated by a partnership of over 70 wildlife organisations. See report here:

At the same time, however, the report shares some hope for the future from the positive impact of conservation activities and the continued significant role played by volunteers in monitoring species and collecting data. But there is still concern about what more can and should be done to help reverse this trend. The report sends a clear message: we have to do more!  

Notwithstanding the growth of public support for conservation, with volunteer time increasing by 40% since 2000 and increasing resources spent and allocated by NGO’s involved, a gap between people’s values and actions described as “disconnection from nature” exists (State of Nature Report 2019 pg. 88). An important question therefore, is how can we develop and maintain a connection with nature? Demonstrating our feelings about nature (an emotional connection), building our knowledge, i.e. sharing data, information; identifying and learning about wildlife; while taking actions to reduce our impact on nature are all crucial.

The State of Nature report, which relies on data collected by tens of thousands of people across the UK, many of whom are volunteers for its conclusions; emphasises how biological monitoring helps to build our knowledge of the world around us and inform conservation efforts. The power of citizen science and learning, as a facilitator for informed action, should not be overlooked. Citizen science, i.e. initiatives that enable anyone to participate and contribute to scientific knowledge, while engaging with and learning about science, can help to foster deep and meaningful connections with nature. This, alongside other positive effects such as on health and wellbeing, has the potential to influence behaviour and positively impact on conservation.

As a State of Nature partner iSpot seeks to complement this work by building skills and helping to make knowledge accessible.The Open University (OU) launched iSpot ten years ago, as an online citizen science platform for biodiversity. iSpot seeks to help anyone explore their curiousity or interest in nature; share wildlife observations; and build identification skills, while learning. Since 2009 we have seen iSpot grow into a rich dataset of information on a wide range of biodiversity (i.e. over 43,000 species observed). We have an online community of over 71,000 and continue to grow thanks to thousands of regular users who have supported and used iSpot over the years.

Free course - Citizen Science and Global Biodiversity

Learning can boost our connection with nature and iSpot continues to do this in a number of ways, such as being part of a new free OU course. Citizen Science and Global Biodiversity deals with the importance of biodiversity – the variety of life on earth – and explores how anyone can connect with, contribute to and be involved in identifying and recording wildlife and nature, as a citizen scientist.  

The course introduces citizen science and how to build biological identification skills while getting involved in scientific research activities. Traditional biological keys as well as online recording tools are presented; building an understanding that once an organism is identified, researching its ecology is also a core skill to have; and in doing so some of the many online resources that are available for use are highlighted. The course shares citizen science techniques through practical activities, and projects including iSpot as well as other examples of citizen science case studies from across the UK and worldwide are discussed.

This is just one example of support available to help us become more informed, participate and learn to make a difference with nature. The inspiring words of young conservationists introducing the State of Nature report highlight many hopes for things we can do. We should all learn from nature, in doing so have a role to play to preserve and create a future for our wildlife for the next generation.

Janice Ansine - iSpot Project Manager, on behalf of the iSpot Team

07 Oct 2019
Janice A