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Citizen Science

What is the environment like where you live? We need to be able to answer this question before we can properly protect and enhance it.

Through the NIA we want to involve as many people as possible in providing observations and data on our local environment. This is called citizen science.

From monitoring tree health to counting bugs and birds in your garden. From identifying ‘special road verges’ to keeping track of invasive species.

Wherever you live in the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area there are many ways to get involved in a whole range of citizen science projects and many people are already underway.

You don’t need to be an expert and for many citizen science projects, training will be given.

      Our local projects

      Get involved in national projects


Local Projects

Riverfly  monitoring network

More than 20 people have signed up to be trained to sample invertebrates in local
streams as part of a national scheme called Riverfly. Monitoring the insects and other invertebrates that live in the Rivers and streams of the Torridge catchment
is the best way to keeping a check on their ecological health. More

Marsh Fritillary Surveys

The marsh fritillary butterfly is one of Europe’s ten most threatened species. Our area’s Culm grasslands are a stronghold for this species but their presence and numbers at a site can vary greatly.

Butterfly Conservation's Devon County Recorder helps to run and coordinate surveys for this wonderful gem of the southwest in June and September surveys. Butterfly Conservation also has citizen science prgrammes to keep tabs on butterfly distribution and abundance nationally. More...

Parish Biodiversity Audits

The Devon Biological Records Centre (DBRC)has produced parish by parish audits of the wildlife in the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area. They have used aerial photography and local species records but haven’t always been able to visit every interesting patch of habitat to do a detailed survey.

Local Volunteers have produced a Parish Biodiversity Audit for Weare Giffard. You can find it here

Perhaps you can help in your parish? Is there is a Biodiversity Audit for where you live? find out using our map

Find out about the Devon Biological Records Centre here

Road verge with orchids - Hatherleigh

Special verges

Our roadside verges can be wonderful homes and ‘green corridors’ for wildlife. Devon County Council has a ‘special verges’ scheme to protect the finest examples. Your local knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise is vital in identifying them and monitoring how any special management they might need is working to keep them special.

Find out more here...

National projects

Landscape Institute’s AshWatch Project

Ash die back is not yet widespread in Devon. Ashwatch allows communities to watch out for it,  help improve our understanding of it and perhaps halt its progress across Devon. It will help us see how such a potentially profound change could affect landscapes right cross the NIA and Biosphere. 

We would like communities/individuals to select a tree or group of trees and photograph it each year, from the same position. This record of changes will help us assess the spread and impact of the disease over time.

Breeding Bird Survey logo

BBS - The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds



 OPAL – the open air laboratories project. This is a national project that has developed a whole series of citizen science resources to help school children and adults do real scientific studies where the data they collect counts towards building a national as well as local understanding

Plant Tracker logo

Plant Tracker – From Himalyan Balsam to Japanese Knotweed, this website and downloadable APP for Android smart phones and Iphones makes it easy to keep track of 12 common invasive plant species.

Bird watching fromthe Tarka Trail - Martin Caddy

BirdTrack - Keeping a record of the birds we see is one of the most useful aspects of our birdwatching. Although you may not think your own personal records are very significant, when you combine them with records from other birdwatchers in the same area, they provide a valuable historical record.

Wood White beside the Tarka Trail

Butterfly Conservation - Thousands of volunteers help us keep track of butterfly and moth populations in the UK. You can help with our survey work. Training is available to help you uncover and report on the amazing creatures living near your home.

Common frog - (C) North Devon's Biosphjere Reserve

Froglife "Dragon finder" App -  Identify reptiles and Dragon Finder App illustrationamphibians and report sightings to a nsational database using this Android and App Store.

Each time you submit a species record, you are given a gold star for that species to help you can keep a track of the animals that you've spotted - why not see how many stars you can collect?!

Also works on Blackberry




The National Plant Monitoring Scheme (NPMS) is a habitat-based plant monitoring scheme designed by BSBI, CEH, Plantlife and JNCC. The aim is to collect data to provide an annual indication of changes in plant abundance and diversity. This is a scientific survey, so you will be randomly allocated a convenient 1km square to visit. The visit involves recording plant ‘indicator species’ in plots. Within your 1km square you will record around 5 plots in semi-natural habitats.