According to Dr John Blewitt, a specialist in Social Responsibility at Aston University in Birmingham, many of us are suffering from a new condition known as “nature deficit disorder”. Before you rush to google the symptoms, it may help to know that this isn’t a real medical condition, but a term coined to describe people who are cut off from the natural world.
Research carried out by the charity Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) has revealed that a significant percentage of young adults aged between 16 and 23 are so divorced from nature they believe that eggs are made from wheat and don’t know that milk comes from a cow.
In a timely intervention, Bristol Natural History Consortium, together with 14 partner organisations, has come up with a national initiative that promises to put us back in touch with the natural world. BioBlitz is a research programme that encourages ordinary people to become wildlife explorers for a day
(find out more at www.bnhc.org.uk).
However if 24 hours isn’t long enough to satisfy your curiosity about the natural world, never fear: you can go on to take part in a range of wildlife initiatives that keep going all year round.
Love our Ladybirds
Go to www.ladybird-survey.org to find information about this much-loved insect, which belongs to the scientific family Coccinellidae. These attractive creatures come in a range of different colours and sizes, from the tiny yellow 22-spot Ladybird to the pea-sized Eyed Ladybird.
Ladybird research is important because of the recent invasion by the Harlequin Ladybird, which now threatens to overwhelm our native populations. On the Ladybird Survey website you’ll find links to a website where you can record sightings of the Harlequin.
Buy a mammal tunnel
Even wondered which small mammals pass through your garden at night, searching for food? Nottingham Trent University has come up with an ingenious way to detect the presence of hedgehogs, mice, shrews and other small creatures. The Footprint Tunnel is a non-invasive tool designed to help researchers identify the presence of animals by identifying their paw-prints, captured on special inked paper.
A Footprint Tunnel kit is available from The Mammal Society at www.mammal.org.uk at a cost of £15.54 (including VAT). You can download a free, printable guide from the same site to help you identify different species from their paw-prints.
Add value to your birdwatching hobby
BirdTrack is a national research programme that uses people power to supply information on birds where there are currently gaps in our knowledge (for example, very little is known about the timing of arrivals and departures of migrating species). The information you supply to BirdTrack could eventually be used to protect our birds, particularly rare species.
Just register on the site www.bto.org as a recorder and the next time you go birdwatching, enter the location you’ve visited, the date and time of your visit then check off the birds you spotted on the list provided.
There are many other ways that you can get involved in monitoring wildlife, including a butterfly survey, a national reptile and amphibian recording scheme, a flying ant survey and a shark egg case hunt! These innovative wildlife recording projects are not only a fantastic way to learn about the great outdoors, they also make a real contribution to the nation’s knowledge, so get out there and start recording today