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OPAL project to roll out across the UK.

Last year was designated the European Year of the Citizen, so it was apt that those twelve months saw a wave of new citizen science ventures get underway. Among them was the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), which represents practitioners, stakeholders and users, and was officially launched during EU Green Week. The European Biodiversity Network (EUBON) initiative began working on its goals, which include exploring approaches to citizen science and making biodiversity data open and accessible.

Closer to home, the British Ecological Society held the first meeting of its Citizen Science Special Interest Group in November, aiming to encourage networking, collaboration and sharing of expertise. Autumn 2013 also brought the announcement that the long-running Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) project would receive a 3 million [pounds sterling] Big Lottery Fund grant to enable it to roll out across the UK.

OPAL, led by Imperial College London, has successfully operated in England since 2007, launching seven national citizen science surveys on topics ranging from soils to climate, and collecting more than 50,000 environmental records from the public. The seventh survey, which launched in May last year, focused on the topical issue of tree health and was the first survey that was able to move beyond England's borders with the support of UK governments.

The new grant will ensure that OPAL's public engagement expertise and a wide range of its resources can now also benefit communities across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The three-year project involves a partnership of key institutions across Britain which will provide on-the-ground support to those who want to explore their local environment. OPAL's other nature surveys will also be launched in the three additional countries.

One of OPAL's key objectives--both in the first phase of the project and for the future--is to inspire schoolchildren, particularly from inner cities and areas of deprivation, to explore and understand their local environment. Education is a core element of OPAL activities and the national surveys are designed to teach participants more about the local environment they are surveying, not just to passively record or sort data.

More information For surveys, ID guides and activities targeted at schools, suitable for inside the classroom and outdoors: www.opalexplorenature.org/resources. Teachers could set up Indicia and iRecord: www.opalexplorenature.org/Indicia. Contact: opal@imperial.ac.uk

Kate Martin and Poppy Lakeman

OPAL web editors, Centre for Environmental Policy, London

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Title Annotation:Public Engagement; Open Air Laboratories
Author:Martin, Kate; Lakeman, Poppy
Publication:Environmental Education
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2014
Words:396
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