The Open University co-host successful UK Biodiversity Conference

By Rachel Redford, Citizen Science Project Officer at The Open University.

The National Biodiversity Network (NBN Conference 2020) was a great success with over 200 delegates, its highest attendance yet! The feedback is just in and it’s been hugely positive, with 90% very/extremely satisfied overall. 

The event was a good opportunity to address the increasing importance of citizen science and biological recording, introducing the European Cos4Cloud project – highlighting one of the Cos4Cloud Citizen Observatories (COs) involved. The Open University (OU), through iSpot is an active member of the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), which is a collaborative partnership created to exchange biodiversity information.

Delegates came from a cross section of UK organisations including wildlife NGOs, academia, local environmental records centres, recording schemes, country agencies, students and individuals all with an interest in sharing and using biodiversity data and wildlife recording.  

“The NBN at 20 – Changing Times” theme marked the 20th Anniversary of the NBN Trust.  Due to be hosted by the Open University (OU) on our Milton Keynes campus as a 2-day event, covid-19 pandemic restrictions meant we all had to adapt along with our ever-changing work and homelife environments and “go digital”. The conference was transformed into a 1-day online event in collaboration with iSpot, Faculty of STEM, run by the NBN and Cos4Cloud OU Team using Microsoft Teams, with 77% viewing MS Teams as good/excellent.

“All excellent. Well suited to the online nature of the conference.”

“As the first completely remote conference that I have attended I thought it went very well, it was convenient as well as “low carbon”.”

“…I would love to see an ongoing online element to the event, even if this is coupled with an ‘in person’ conference. The reach of the conference can only be increased by providing access to more people.”

The main presentations were held in a virtual Hub Lecture Theatre, with informal spaces for networking, closing with the NBN Awards Ceremony for Wildlife Recording. Delegates were encouraged to participate in a BioBlitz ahead of the conference using iSpot to observe, record and identify November’s wildlife. Overall, 79% viewed the BioBlitz as a positive addition!

Janice Ansine, Senior Project Manager – Citizen Science, and Dr Mike Dodd, iSpot Curator, from the School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences (EEES) and members of the OU’s Cos4Cloud team presented on results of the NBN BioBlitz, iSpot & Citizen Science.

Photo: Janice Ansine.

They also introduced delegates to iSpot and the Cos4Cloud project aims, challenges and opportunities. Highlighting the increase in nature observations and sightings on iSpot during the pandemic, addressing opportunities for network involvement and future plans for iSpot.

Photo: Mike Dodd.

Exciting developments for citizen science and biological recording using COs and technologies to increase the quality and quantity of biodiversity and environmental observations were discussed, particularly on Cos4Cloud, and the DECIDE project, on recorder motivations, with co-design at the core of both initiatives.

Dr Cecilia Medupin, Lecturer, School of Natural Sciences, and Convener of Women in Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, gave an inspiring Opening Keynote Address on ‘Biodiversity of Macroinvertebrates, Public Engagement, Inclusion & Sustainable Development Goals’.

Photo: Dr Cecilia Medupin.

Cecilia explored the sensitivity of aquatic macroinvertebrates to the environment, their ability to inform aquatic health and the challenges posed by human impact. Addressing key strategies needed to sustainably manage, protect and restore freshwater ecosystems and aquatic organisms for the future and the importance of specific networks linking women in environmental sciences as a vehicle to support biodiversity and environmental protection.

 Sir Charles Burrell of the Knepp Castle Estate gave the Sir John Burnett Memorial Lecture on ‘New habitats for a connected nature scape’ with its 3500 acres devoted to a process led rewilding project. Exploring how rewilding might be part of the solution for making space in nature in lowland Britain with re-roaming herds of livestock and deer at the heart of it, as drivers of habitat creation.

Photo: Sir Charles Burrell.

Overall, it was a full day of presentations on a diverse range of biodiversity data and wildlife recording topics. Attendance maintained throughout to the Closing Awards, NBN Awards Winners 2020, a good sign of an engaged NBN community.

The NBN Conference 2020 Feedback was extremely positive, opening up opportunities for many to attend who would have experienced travel/funding limitations to attend a face to face only event. This champions the possibilities for widening participation, increasing equality diversity and inclusivity across the network.

NBN Awards Winners screenshot. Credit: NBN Conference 2020.

Here’s hoping for positive changes to the shape of the pandemic for the NBN Conference 2021. It will be a fantastic opportunity for us to update on the progress of iSpot and Cos4Cloud and bring the NBN community together once again, hopefully for a virtual and face to face celebration of nature next time!

Watch all the presentations by ‘clicking’ here!

The post was written by Rachel Redford, Citizen Science Project Officer at The Open University. Visit her profesional profile.

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