Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network

Pond dipping

This project aims to better connect people with their local environment, through a series of England-wide citizen science surveys and smaller projects in Yorkshire and the Humber.

OPAL is a partnership project led by Imperial College London, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. SEI-Y is the partner responsible for delivering the project in Yorkshire and the Humber. We have been helping develop the national citizen science surveys of soil, air and water quality, biodiversity and climate. Our regional work has included studying the ecology of colliery sites in West Yorkshire through training local residents in survey techniques, creating education resources for primary school teachers to use in woodlands, radio-tracking hedgehogs in East Hull, and running biodiversity events on a variety of scales across the region.

During the OPAL project, SEI has developed a website for recording wildlife on the University of York campus. The website is open to staff, students, local residents and visitors to the campus to record any wildlife they see.

One of the aims of OPAL is to provide support to people already involved in biological recording and to provide an accessible way into wildlife recording for those new to it. To address this, OPAL funded the UK’s National Biodiversity Network to develop Indicia, a toolkit for building wildlife recording websites. It was this that was used to develop the website for the university. The website provides a place for people already looking for wildlife (such as in student projects) to record their sightings and also aims to get more people looking at the wildlife around them.‌

SEI OPAL Wildlife Survey

Creating this central repository for records also provides us information on the biodiversity present on our campus and allows us to track changes over time, for example as the new Heslington East campus matures. Records are also passed onto the iRecord website (, a national wildlife recording website. Here records are verified by experts and passed onto national recording schemes, where they are used in conservation decision-making and research.

To submit your records please visit

Further information

Theme: Rethinking Development

Dates: August 2007- May 2013

Collaborating organistions: Imperial College London, Natural History Museum, Field Studies Council (full list on website)

External website: