Who’s driving the future of conservation? Ordinary people

Citizen science has become something of a buzzword, but it’s nothing new. Before science became professionalised in the 19th century, amateur naturalists were collecting information and helping us understand the natural world. And it wasn’t just country vicars; Mary Anning, the daughter of a poor cabinet-maker, spent decades discovering fossils in the cliffs at Lyme Regis, in Dorset, and advancing human understanding of prehistoric life.

In the UK the RSPB has more than a million members, and a 2009 study found that nearly 50% of UK households feed wild birds. The National Trust has more than 5 million members, and 60,000 active volunteers helping to protect the countryside as well as historic properties. Now, with our environment arguably under greater threat than ever and species declining at an alarming rate, volunteers are once again at the forefront of efforts to limit the damage – as we saw on the BBC’s Winterwatch this week.


photo credit: Keulkeulmike Photography


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