My Naturewatch – Small device, large-scale community engagement
A collaboration between the Interaction Research Studio Goldsmiths and the RCA, My Naturewatch, sought to find new ways to engage with nature and technology. The RCA Principal investigator, Dr Rob Phillips said of the research project:
‘My Naturewatch aims to transform the way that we engage with the natural world. Wildlife surrounds us and encouraging biodiversity and the skills of the amateur naturalist have never been more required. The project leverages new methods of engagement giving agency to its users.’
Following a four-part course at The Design Museum in early 2020, a number of the organisations who have been using the My Naturewatch devices to support their conservation work, community engagement, outreach and more were invited to share their feedback (watch the video above).
We spoke to a number of these organisations to share more about how My Naturewatch has supported their work. Read on below:
White Stork Project – Lucy Groves, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
The White Stork Project is a pioneering partnership of private landowners and nature conservation organisations, which are working to restore a free-living, breeding population of white storks in southern England by 2030.‘The My Naturewatch cameras have played an important part in engaging our volunteers with the scientific monitoring of the birds in and around Knepp. By using the cameras in key areas our volunteers were able to pick up individual ring numbers of the birds, allowing us to see which individuals are returning to the site and at what times. This information is vital to the project to learn how these birds are behaving once they are released.’
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is developing a White Stork Project schools programme for children near the Sussex stork release site which will use the My Naturewatch cameras to inspire children to explore and learn about the natural world around them.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust – Sophie Mayes Lackford Lakes SWT
‘We were excited to discover a new tool to help people learn about the wildlife that is living in and around Suffolk. We ran a project called ‘my six wild weeks’. Families met to build the My Naturewatch cameras and get to know one another, and were then allocated a week to adopt a camera. During this time, they kept a blog and downloaded pictures. The project was a great success and all of the participants felt more connected to nature than ever before.’After this project the Trust ran a camera building workshop with more families in the local community. Through the support of the RCA, they were also able to bring together local organisations The Mix - who work with children who are not in school - and Red Gables, who offered an area to put the cameras.
'The coming together of all these organisations benefited so many people in different ways and enabled us to engage people who never would have had the opportunity otherwise.'
The cameras have been a brilliant teaching tool to Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and we can’t wait to expand it even further!
EPIC project and My Naturewatch – Alistair Whitby, Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust
‘One of the key aims of the EPIC project is to connect the residents of Sompting, Broadwater, Lancing and East Worthing with their local wildlife and natural heritage. The cameras offered us the perfect tool for local residents to connect with the wildlife and natural heritage in their gardens and local green spaces in a fun, engaging and novel way.’
‘Despite most residents not having done anything like this before there was a huge amount of enthusiasm to both build and deploy the cameras. Local residents have captured over twenty species on the cameras from frogs to hedgehogs, moths to foxes and a myriad of butterflies, birds and cats!’
‘Camera users have gone on to improve habitats in their garden, invest in more wildlife monitoring kit and engage in conservation activities such as hedge planting and bird box making. The cameras have been fantastic addition to our species monitoring work.’
The Wildlife Trust BCN – Joanne GarradThe Wildlife Trust BCN in Cambridge has been working in partnership with My Naturewatch, The Jolly Geographer and Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital to create a rehabilitated hedgehog release programme at their Trumpington Meadows nature reserve.
Using the My Naturewatch technology the animal welfare professionals, conservation land managers and wildlife monitoring volunteers involved were able to ensure that they were providing the best possible help for the hedgehog in their care.
Images from the hedgehog monitor cameras formed a key part of social media coverage, increasing the reach of engagement with members of the public and helping to spread the word about conservation efforts to help the local hedgehog population.
The Jolly Geographer – Sam Gandhi
‘My goal as ‘The Jolly Geographer’ is to raise the profile of geography in exciting and innovative ways – for educational and professional good. When this My Naturewatch project came along, it was a no-brainer – it provided the perfect opportunity to bring simple but powerful camera-trapping techniques to important conservation projects, in an affordable and accessible manner.’
‘One of my highlights was to welcome our local MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, to see Project Hogwatch (and the My Naturewatch monitoring cameras) in action. It was a valuable opportunity to showcase the role of technology in conservation, to those who can really influence the way our communities engage with nature.’
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