Scientists from Earthwatch showed how modern technology and dedicated volunteers are the way forward for environmental conservation in a world which needs ‘people power' more than ever.
BBC TV presenter and Earthwatch ambassador Paul Rose hosted the lecture, Many hands, new knowledge: the value of citizen science, on Thursday 17 March at the Royal Geographical Society. Paul's brand new series Britain's Secret Seas will air on Sunday 8 May on BBC 2.
Executive Vice-President of Earthwatch, Nigel Winser, said: "This year we celebrate our 40th anniversary - 40 years of pioneering ‘citizen science'. At Earthwatch we believe that engaging all areas of society in the tough environmental challenges that we face is the future. Protecting our planet for future generations is a huge and complex task. This is why motivating a worldwide taskforce of people dedicated to protecting our planet is crucial."
Paul Rose added: "I've experienced first-hand the degradation of some of the most beautiful and species-rich environments on our planet. We do not have the luxury of time to safeguard these precious resources for future generations. By involving many thousands of people from all over the world in hands-on data collection, Earthwatch is able to massively accelerate the rate at which we are able to gather the information we need to make bold and informed conservation decisions."
At the lecture, marine scientist Dr William Megill from the University of Bath talked about the contribution that Earthwatch volunteers have made to his research into grey whales and turtles in the North Pacific for the past ten years. Dr Megill showed how technology has developed from 35mm film cameras and hours of dark-room work, to modern and accurate GPS (Global Positioning Systems) which allow precise data to be obtained remotely. His research is also experimenting with the development of new submersible robots.
Dr Megill explained how Earthwatch volunteers are crucial to generating high quality data and conservation success. Dr Megill said: ‘Without the many pairs of hands that volunteers are able to provide to assist researchers, the delicate instrumentation which we rely on would just be flotsam collecting barnacles on the ocean."
Around 450 people attended the event at the Royal Geographical Society.
From the University of Oxford, scientist Dr Chris Newman who, together with Dr Christina Buesching, is researching climate change impacts on the mammal populations of Nova Scotia, presented their series of landmark papers highlighting how, with the right training, volunteers from all walks of life can make a significant contribution to the study of ecosystems and climate change. According to Drs. Buesching and Newman's analyses, people from diverse backgrounds including company employees, teachers, or teams of teenage students, can all make valuable contributions to conservation research, at the same time personally benefitting from the volunteer experience.
The Earthwatch 2011 events programme is kindly supported by The Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa.
Coming soon: look out for our video in which Dr William Megill and Dr Chris Newman talk further about the issues to explorer Paul Rose.
Read more in the news: Volunteers vital to science data collection