Nature Counts projects asks citizens to become scientists

Tuesday 28th June 2016

Hedgehog in a pile of autumn leaves (c)Tom MarshallHedgehog in a pile of autumn leaves (c)Tom Marshall

People of Sheffield have the chance to become ‘citizen scientists’ for an exciting two-year long joint project aimed at recording animal and plant species in the area. This work will culminate in a ‘State Of Nature’ report for Sheffield, to give the city an ecological ‘health check’.

As citizen scientists, volunteers will help to collect scientific data in order to contribute to an accurate picture of the wildlife across the city. In return, participants will gain valuable skills and become part of an important community initiative. The project has been made possible thanks to a £99,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The J G Graves Charitable Trust is also supporting the project.

Nature Counts is headed by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and brings together Sheffield’s Universities, Museums Sheffield: Weston Park, the City Council, natural history specialist groups and the general public. By working with these groups and using volunteer ‘biological recorders’ the project will bring together biological data from the Sheffield Biological Records Centre, Sorby Natural History Society and other sources to analyse for the State of Nature in Sheffield report.

The report will then be used to see how local wildlife is faring against the backdrop of climate change, land development and a changing industry, and will provide evidence and guidance for future conservation efforts.

Sara Blackburn brings her expertise in nature conservation and public engagement to the role of Nature Counts Project Co-ordinator and Paul Richards brings his life-long passion for natural history to the role of Engagement Officer.

The two year project will compare existing information about the local wildlife with the newly collected data to work out what action may be needed to protect and restore the city’s rich natural heritage.

Paul Richards, Engagement Officer, said: “It’s vital we have a more accurate account of the wildlife present in Sheffield — including birds, butterflies and insects — so that we can better monitor changes and to inform our work to improve their habitats. Sheffield people can help by recording the animals in their back gardens, as well as getting involved in more challenging surveys.”

Throughout the project there will be public talks, training and events and an exhibition will be produced for Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum.

Identification training for volunteers
Participation from the general public is crucial to the success of Nature Counts, and the Wildlife Trust is eager to encourage as many people as possible to get involved. In order to facilitate this, the Trust will be hosting a number of public wildlife identification workshops where people can find out more about how to identify and record various species. Contributions can range from simply noting down the different types of butterflies that come into your garden, to receiving expert training in the fast-disappearing skills of identification and field surveying.

Find out how you could get involved with the magnificent wildlife of Sheffield – maybe you could be a hedgehog hero for example?  Contact Tel: 0114 2634335 or email or visit to learn more about the project.

Otterly Amazing! Appeal
Otters are one of the target species in the Nature Counts project. The Trust’s Otterly Amazing! fundraising appeal has successfully raised over £20,000 through public donations and grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Yorkshire Water and the Banister Charitable Trust to match funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The extra funds are allowing the Trust to undertake habitat improvements for otters as well as purchase survey equipment. Teams of volunteers have been trained in how to spot signs of otters and motion sensitive cameras will try and obtain footage of the elusive creatures. State-of-the-art DNA sampling of otter spraints (faeces) will be facilitated by the Sheffield University in order to paint a clearer picture of the otter population along the River Don.

Nicky Rivers, Project Manager said: “Public support for our Otterly Amazing! appeal shows how committed people are to preserving the wildlife on their doorstep. The Nature Counts project provides another opportunity to get involved in a practical and enjoyable way, in order to better understand and protect local wildlife for the future.”