Our environment is facing hugely complex challenges, including declining biodiversity, air pollution and climate change. But we can’t find effective solutions until we understand those complexities. Earthwatch is aiming to recruit up to 100,000 volunteers – or ‘Earthwatchers’ – from across the UK and Europe, who will collect scientific data about what’s happening to our natural resources.
The data our Earthwatchers collect will fill several scientific knowledge gaps, to:
- Help identify which environmental solutions will have the biggest impact
- Help identify how changes at a local level can be scaled up to inform global change
- Indicate where action is most urgently needed.
Earthwatch Europe CEO, Steve Andrews, said: “The reason I’m so proud of Earthwatchers is that it has the potential to make a tangible impact on the big environmental issues of our time, and offer an engaging and rewarding long-term experience to participants. This is real science, carried out by members of the public who want to be part of the solution.”
The initial platform enables volunteers to sign up to three projects, each of which has been specially designed to provide engaging activities and make a meaningful contribution to environmental science. Further projects will be added throughout the year.
In Tree Tracking, volunteers will monitor a tree, or set of trees, over a period of time. Their observations of seasonal changes, sampling and measurements will help build a dataset on trees in different environments. This dataset will help identify what the optimum set of conditions for trees is, to maximise their benefits.
RiverWatch: Plastic Pollution combines the two important topics of plastic pollution and freshwater quality. Volunteers will visit local waterways and survey the amount of plastic on the bank. The data will show which types of plastic are most common, where they come from and where the hotspots are, informing solutions to reduce and prevent plastic pollution at local and national levels.
Our most topical project, Your Household Footprint, relates directly to lifestyle changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It gives volunteers the option to track up to three different household activities: travel, recycling and heating. The data collected over a period of time will help identify what trends are emerging, and how to maintain the positive environmental aspects that were indirectly caused by the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
Most of the Earthwatchers projects involve citizen science – where members of the public, who don’t necessarily have specialist training, help gather and analyse scientific data
Toos van Noordwijk, Director of Science, Policy and Innovation, said: “Earthwatchers is a unique opportunity for people of all walks of life to get involved in robust scientific research and monitoring, generating an unprecedented understanding of the state of our environment. The citizen science projects our scientists have developed are exciting opportunities to plug the data gaps and identify impactful solutions, fast.”