Citizen scientists and climate change close to home

Many of us living in the UK know Earthwatch and its research expeditions to exotic places like the Amazon and the Galapagos. But did you know you can go on a research expedition to study climate change on the outskirts of Oxford?

To find out about this program, Tanager Talks met with Dr. Martha Crockatt, a research manager at Earthwatch who leads the program in Wytham Woods,  woodlands that was once part of the estate of the Earls of Abingdon and is now in the care of the University of Oxford. The program examining climate change in Wytham Woods has been running for a number of years and is funded with the assistance of HSBC.

The Research

Research at Wytham focuses on the impact of climate change on the vital role forests play in the carbon cycle. Forests hold more carbon than any other terrestrial habitat. It is important, therefore, to understand how changes in climate  impact the storage and release of carbon in forests.

In addition, the research looks at the impact of forest fragmentation as forests across the UK and Western Europe are broken into smaller and smaller pieces so that in England 64% of forests are within 100 metres of the forest edge where the climate is warmer and dryer than at the forest core.

How to become a citizen scientist

There are lots of ways to help, most of which involve a tape measure. Measuring tree diameters, mapping their location, conducting dead wood surveys and leaf litter collections are just some of the tasks that volunteers perform. In 2014, Earthwatch is running two one-day programs in Wytham Woods and you can find out more about these opportunities here.

The Impact

For individuals and for Earthwatch’s corporate partners, the impact of getting hands-on field experience is enormous. In particular, participants benefit from a better understanding of the scientific process, the length of time it takes to collect valuable data and the importance of backing up the sensational headlines we see in the papers with “firm, well rounded, well collected science”. On the other hand, Earthwatch benefits from being able to collect data at a larger scale than would be possible with scientists alone, not to mention having enthusiastic individuals on board who make fieldwork enjoyable and provide useful insights and suggestions for adaptations to data collection.

You can find out more about Earthwatch and Wytham Woods here.

Recommended Posts