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OPAL inspires thousands in Yorkshire to discover the region's environment

A group who launched the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network's Community Environment report at the House of Lords included Sarah West, of the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York.

Sarah working with Poppleton Road Primary School, York‌OPAL is the largest citizen science project of its kind - engaging the public and giving them the resources, skills and knowledge both to participate in surveys and to continue caring for their local environment

The Community Environment document highlights some of OPAL's activities since the project began five years ago. The report reveals that the project, led by Imperial College London and supported by a grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme, has mapped more than 25,000 sites across England, including areas never sampled before by scientists.

Around 17,000 people have participated in OPAL in Yorkshire and the Humber, in projects ranging from radio tracking hedgehogs in Hull to monitoring butterflies on brownfield sites in West Yorkshire.

Sarah West, who is an OPAL Community Scientist based in SEI at York, said "One of the best things about working on this project has been the people that I've met. We have helped people to learn new things about their environment, and for some people this has had a profound effect on them. Research has shown that spending time outdoors with nature is beneficial for both physical and mental health, and I have observed changes in some of the people we have worked with.

"It has also been great to be able to shatter some people's images of what scientists look like, and encourage young people to consider careers in science - it's not all lab coats and test tubes!"

A copy of the report can be found at www.opalexplorenature.org/CEreport-news

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