Quantifying tree regeneration in the Allt a’ Mharcaidh catchment, Cairngorms, Scotland
The main ingredients of a citizen science project are a desire by both scientists and members of the public to research an interesting question with scientific rigour. This was the starting point of the partnership between Jan Dick of the Cairngorms INTERACT site in Scotland and a group of dedicated environmentalists, Highland Facilitator Team.
They held a joint awareness day on Thursday 19th July commencing at Badaguish Outdoor Centre, a resource funded by the Scottish Highland Council to encourage local people to connect with nature. The aim of the meeting was to develop a new citizen science programme. Jan presented the basic rationale of the project to quantify the regeneration of trees in the Allt a’ Mharcaidh (pronounced 'Alt a Varcay') catchment to the organisers of the team while the younger members of the team went on a bike ride.
In total five members of the team attended the first session: Justine Robertson and Amy Robertson, joint Coordinators of Highland Facilitator Team; Barbra Coull, Highland Facilitator Team Administrator; Michael Munson, Volunteer Youth Leader; Michaela Severin, Community Connecter for Inverness working for the charity Health and Happiness in the Highlands and Susan Ritson, Rural Skills Teacher at Charleston Academy.
Following a presentation it was agreed that this project would be an ideal vehicle to engage the youngsters providing an opportunity for them to learn more about science and providing very valuable data which will help manage the remote wild lands which are part of the Invershie and Inshriach National Nature Reserve owned by Scottish Natural Heritage.
Some of the members of the team have physical disabilities but Jan explained that there was always a need for computer skills when conducting science as the data would need to be analysed and she was very willing to teach group members the basic statistics which would be required to determine the rate of seedling regeneration and determine the factors which significantly influenced the establishment of tree seedlings on the site.
Following lunch Jan explained the project to the youngsters. With the aid of tree samples she asked them to identify the four dominant tree species they would need to be able to identify: they identified all four correctly, one more than the team leaders had managed in the morning session! The group then headed to the field site where Jan explained how to measure the trees. The team discussed the associated data which would be needed e.g. altitude, distance from seed source, ground vegetation etc. The youngsters agreed that they were interested in the project so preparations have started to turn this exciting idea into a fully fledged citizen science project.