Wellbeing benefits of citizen science projects revealed in first of its kind study

UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) Press Release

Researchers from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology examine the wellbeing benefits of taking part in citizen science in a first of it’s kind study.

Image of a woman participating in a citizen science project
Participation in citizen science projects to boost wellbeing. Credit: Dr Michael Pocock

Published in People and Nature, researchers from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) have found that taking part in nature based ‘citizen science’ projects can boost the wellbeing of participants.

This is the first large scale study to measure the wellbeing benefits of volunteers taking part in these projects. 500 volunteers from across the UK were randomly selected to carry out a ten minute nature-based activity, at least five times per day, over the course of eight days during the 2020 pandemic restrictions.

Activities included; insect surveys, butterfly surveys as well as simply writing down three good things that they notice whilst being in nature.

Image of kids participating in outdoor citizen science to boost wellbeing
Children can also participate in citizen science

The groups were surveyed both before and after taking part in the study in order to assess differences in their connection to nature, their wellbeing, and pro-nature behaviour. All volunteers showed increased scores in wellbeing and feeling connected with nature after the completion of their chosen activities.

Dr Michael Pocock, a UKCEH ecologist said “This has been a valuable exercise in exploring how we can improve citizen science. If we design future projects with additional nature-based activities, we can enhance peoples connection to nature whilst simultaneously collecting valuable data.”

In addition, those writing down good things they noticed about nature were reported as being more likely to adopt pro-nature behaviours such as planting more pollinator friends plants, or creating shelters for wildlife.

Image of girls participating in citizen science project to boost wellbeing
Data from citizen science projects are vital in ecology research

Professor Miles Richardson from the University of Derby expressed that “It’s great to see nature based citizen science providing another form of engagement that can strengthen the human-nature relationship. When combined with noticing the positive emotions nature can bring, citizen science can help unite both human and nature’s wellbeing.”

The UKCEH welcomes any volunteers interested in recording wildlife to get involved via the iRecord wesbite: https://irecord.org.uk/. Records from this citizen science project are used in vital research to understand changes in our wildlife.

To read the full article, free for a limited time, please click below:

Pocock, M. J. O.Hamlin, I.Christelow, J.Passmore, H.-A., & Richardson, M. (2023). The benefits of citizen science and nature-noticing activities for well-being, nature connectedness and pro-nature conservation behavioursPeople and Nature001– 16https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10432