A joint pilot in Co-created Citizen Science was recently trialed with Kinross Day Centre (our thanks to Nan Cook), with a group of elderly volunteers. The group were all near or beyond retirement age, in generally good health (beyond a few age related ailments) with an average age of 73. Stevie Jarron from The Conservation Volunteers and Ronald Macintyre from Open University piloted a co-creation approach to the project; they offered a range of ideas and methods around citizen science recording and supported the group to develop a suitable recording method for their needs, interests and abilities.
We asked the group “tell us what you see”, and showed them various recording sheet styles, methods of recording in surveys, single species recording, habitat surveying, online surveys, fold out charts and ID books. We showed the range of plants, fungi, birds, mammals, that biological recording covers. We showed them environmental monitoring surveys for weather, air quality, phenology that they can take part in.
The group trialed various surveying and recording methods and discussed with us how simple or difficult, convenient or restrictive the methods were. The young and spritely Roy (62) took a lead role locally, which kept everybody (Helen, Kathy, Errol and the 2 Toms) informed and engaged.
The group agreed upon a simple method for record capture, police style notebooks, complete with pencil. They also thought that small Collins gem books on birds and insects were convenient and useful, portable enough that they were taken nearly everywhere with them and slowly, record collecting became something they did within most of their usual activities.
A list of simple wildlife guides and FSC sheets, with some iSpot type websites helped support the recording activities. Some in the group also explored capturing records of wildlife with digital photography, a great way of collecting a permanent record. Local wildlife groups showed interest in future support and ensured that there is a route for the records raised by the group. Feedback is important for any citizen science participants. Just the reward of thanks can often be enough. As a group that are normally hard to encourage to do more; most want to do less, the hook of health, exercise, wildlife watching, getting out more, meeting people, seemed to encourage them.
The group admit that they are now more active and more aware of the seasons around them and will definitely keep doing it, some have even noticed a bit of weight loss. They know more about the local wildlife than ever before, are being more sociable as a group and know more people within the Day centre than before, exchanging information. They are taking more short walks, but also some longer walks, the pattern keeps evolving. They are more sociable with people from outside the Day Centre as they are proud to tell people what they are doing. The final words of the group – “Many thanks to you for opening our eyes to what’s living around us. We’re now taking an active interest in wildlife recording activities.”
Our website has lots more information and ideas about getting involved in citizen science or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to find out more about TCV’s support for citizen science projects.