Nature has the power to soothe the soul and improve mental well-being. It turns out, participating in nature-based citizen science projects can have a double positive impact—boosting both the participant’s well-being and advancing scientific knowledge.
Nature Up Close and Personal: A Well-being Experiment
The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), the University of Derby and the British Science Association recently conducted the first large-scale study to measure the well-being benefits of participating in citizen science projects. The study, „Nature Up Close and Personal: A Well-being Experiment,” was conducted during the pandemic restrictions of 2020 and involved 500 volunteers from across the UK.
Volunteers were randomly assigned to carry out a 10-minute nature-based activity at least five times over eight days. These activities included: a pollinate insects survey, a butterfly survey, simply spending time in nature and writing down three good things they noticed, or a combination of both.
Both before and after the activities, the volunteers were surveyed to assess differences in their connection to nature, well-being, and pro-nature behavior.
The Results: A Boost in Well-Being and Pro-Nature Behavior
The results were overwhelmingly positive. All volunteers showed increased scores in well-being and feeling connected to nature after completing their activities. Participants reported that their experience „gave them permission to slow down,” „made them more aware of nature in all aspects of the environment,” and „reminded them that small things can make a big difference to their mood.”
Furthermore, those who wrote down three good things they noticed, either alone or when combined with nature recording activities, reported that they were more likely to adopt pro-nature behaviors beyond their involvement in the project, such as planting more pollinator-friendly plants or creating shelters for wildlife. This shows that taking part in citizen science has even more benefits for nature.
Enhancing the Human-Nature Relationship
Dr. Michael Pocock, ecologist and academic lead for public engagement with research at UKCEH, stated, „Being in and around nature is good for our well-being, and we’ve shown that focused, active engagement with nature is just as important—whether that is ‘mindful moments’ in nature or taking part in citizen science.”
Co-author Professor Miles Richardson, who leads the Nature Connectedness Research Group at the University of Derby, added, „People connect with nature in different ways, so it’s great to see nature-based citizen science can provide another form of active 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 well-being.”
Join the Movement
There are many nature-based citizen science projects run by different organizations all year round. UKCEH welcomes support from anyone interested in volunteering to get involved with recording wildlife via the iRecord website and free-to-use apps for butterflies: iRecord Butterflies and the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme. Records from these citizen science projects are used in vital scientific research to understand changes in our wildlife.
So, why not join the movement and reap the benefits for both yourself and the environment? Get involved with nature-based citizen science and make a positive impact on the world, one step at a time.