Conference to connect citizen scientists across Scotland

Volunteer-led citizen science will be in the spotlight this February.  Citizen scientists are volunteers who keep and share records of some or all of the wildlife species that they see, to help inform conservation and environmental research.  The Inner Forth Landscape Initiative (IFLI) is partnering Buglife Scotland, Stirling Council and The Wildlife Information Centre to organise a conference called From Source to Resource: Making Biological Records Count, at Alloa Academy on Saturday 10 February. The event will look at the journey that wildlife records make between the recorder and species recording schemes, then onward to inform work to restore, conserve and save species and landscapes, and is aimed at recorders, verifiers and anyone interested in or working in the fields of biological recording, citizen science and environmental conservation in Scotland.

 Image: Paul Barclay/Inner Forth Landscape Initiative

This free conference will celebrate volunteer participation in monitoring the UK’s nature, help members of the biological recording community across Scotland to make connections, and provide updates from practitioners and projects in the area. There will be something for anyone involved in this field or who is interested in Scotland’s natural heritage. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) Dr Mark Eaton will give a keynote talk on the recent State of Nature report, and the use of volunteer-generated data.  As well as the talks there will be morning and afternoon parallel break-out sessions ensuring that everyone, whether you are fascinated by birds or mammals, aquatic life or lichens, can feed their interests and develop new knowledge.

Within the programme, attendees will have time to browse a dedicated display area where you will be able to network, learn more about a wide range of wildlife recording schemes in Scotland, and find out how to get involved in a variety of ways.

The organisers are particularly keen to encourage volunteers and other people involved in biological recording and citizen science to attend, whether you contribute regular or ad-hoc wildlife records, act as a verifier or Vice County Recorder, or undertake fieldwork to further knowledge of sites. The day is also ideal for students and people who are new to wildlife recording and looking to develop their confidence, knowledge and skills. Tickets are free of charge for all attendees but advance booking is essential. 

Commenting on the conference, IFLI’s Community Engagement Officer, Kate Fuller said: ‘This conference, in the central belt of Scotland between the River Forth and the Ochil Hills, is an exciting way to share and celebrate the diversity of species that are found within Scotland, and to recognise the valuable work by volunteers and other practitioners who monitor and record the state of the natural world around us. The day will look at how records move between the recorder, verifier and are then available and used by organisations and practitioners who research or seek to restore and conserve species and landscapes. We invite you to join us for an enjoyable and eye-opening day.’

To find out more about the conference you can visit the IFLI website at or book your free place via the Eventbrite page at Details of the morning and afternoon parallel break-out sessions will be available in early January.

Team effort puts new pond dipping platform in place at Black Devon Wetlands

Over 250 hours of work have gone into installing a new boardwalk and pond dipping platform at RSPB Black Devon Wetlands Nature Reserve, near Alloa.

Assistant Warden Ami on the completed boardwalk. Photo: RSPB

The work was carried out by a combination of local volunteers and RSPB and IFLI staff, and was funded by the Initiative, through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The result is a fantastic resource that can be used by local schools, youth groups, families and anyone else that would like to discover more about the hidden wildlife that lives beneath the water there. It also serves to highlight the variety of habitats that a site like RSPB Black Devon can support.

The pond dipping platform is actually the first of four that will be constructed on site between now and March, when the area will be opened up to the public. RSPB staff will also be working closely with local schools to help them get the most out of these great new facilities.

Ami Kirkbright, RSPB Inner Forth Assistant Warden, commented: "We are so excited to have completed the boardwalk and the first pond dipping platform. RSPB Black Devon Wetlands is an amazing place to engage with people, being just a short walk from central Alloa. It has so much to offer in terms of wildlife, and although the ponds were only created 16 months ago, they are already brimming with hugh numbers of insects, fish and newts. The platforms will make it easier and safer and for children to investigate the ponds with their nets and get a closer look at what wonderful wildlife has taken up residence here at Black Devon Wetlands.

We couldn't have completed this in record time without all the amazing help from our volunteers, who contributed over 100 hours of their time to help us. Other RSPB staff and the IFLI team also came to help us on their volunteer work days - thank you all so much!"

A volunteer party at work on the boardwalk. Photo: David Palmar

Although the ponds are relatively quiet during the winter, and there is still more to build, the RSPB and IFLI will be celebrating the opening of the new platforms and amazing wildlife in the Spring, so keep an eye on the RSPB and IFLI websites for up-coming events, where Ami and the RSPB team will be putting the pond dipping platforms to good use.

Find out more about the Reserve on the RSPB website.

Work Experience With IFLI

My name is Jayden Read.  I am a 15 year old boy in high school right now.  I live in Scotland in a small town called Tillicoultry with my parents, brother and sister.  In my spare time I’m usually laying around in my room or messing around with my friends.  We used to live around a lot of trees which I would climb a lot, this got me interested in things to do with the environment.  This was a big reason why I asked the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, or IFLI for short, to take me in for a week of work experience.

I was given a timetable that showed what I was going to be doing throughout the week and the variety of activities I would be doing.

During my week of work experience I walked around the Gartmorn Dam to identify different species of bird which was very cold but worth it because now I have a lot more knowledge on different kinds of birds.  We wrote down where the different species of bird were on our map by using codes for the different birds.  We saw well over 20 different species during our walk around the dam.  It was a nice experience to see tons of different colors on different birds.

We also went to Bridgeness to clear some bushes to make the place more habitable for animals.  When we were there we made a little hedgehog den out of some sticks that turned out decent. 

I wrote about the robin and put the information on the IFLI site and found out some interesting information about it like that they are associated with Christmas because the postmen who gave out Christmas cards in Victorian Britain wore red clothes and got the nickname robin so the robin on the cards represent the postmen. 

We went to go open up the sluice at RSPB Skinflats but then realised that there was something stopping us from opening it so instead of doing that we went to some cameras that were set up to take pictures of the birds and got quite a lot of good pictures from it.

And on my last day we went to finish of a boardwalk at RSPB Black Devon Wetlands which has been a very long project and we also cut up some willow trees so we could use them to block off areas around a view point so nobody can disturb the animals on the other side.

All in all, it was a fun, interesting and cold experience, the team was very nice to me and I’m glad that I came here for my work experience.  It has given me a bigger idea of what I want to choose as a career for when I’m older.

Access work completed at Abbey Craig

The latest IFLI access paths project was completed last month as the path leading to the summit of Abbey Craig, home to one of the Forth Valley's most iconic structures.

The path bordering the main road up the Wallace Monument has been upgraded - formerly just a desire line worn in the grass, it now runs for 500 metres up the hill, and was constructed from recycled road arisings. Additional work also saw the clearing of drains and culverts around the site to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion to the path.

It's estimated the route is used by over 90,000 people a year, both tourists and locals, and it will soon also be the site of one of the planned IFLI interpretation beacons.


Before and after of the path up to Abbey Craig

IFLI shortlisted for UK citizen science award

IFLI have been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for our work to help protect the area's natural heritage through citizen science.

The annual National Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing recognise and celebrate the outstanding people and projects that help us understand our wildlife better. This is because the more we know about what plants and animals are found in an area, where they are, and whether they are increasing or declining, the easier it is to work out the best ways to protect them.

IFLI has been shortlisted for the National Biodiversity Network's (NBN) Lynne Farrell Group Award for Wildlife Recording. Its application included a wide range of work that the Initiative carries out, such as a project called Forth Nature Counts, which encourages local people to record the wildlife on their doorstep. People can get involved in all sorts of ways, from recording the occasional wildlife sighting on a special website called the NBN Gateway, to taking on their own regular survey walk. Volunteers are supported through an extensive programme of free wildlife ID workshops, and IFLI staff are on hand with help and advice, thanks to the way IFLI is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Steve and Linda McKinley, IFLI volunteer Nature Recorders, said: 'We get a buzz from visiting our 'patch', from increasing our knowledge in identifying and recording flora and fauna, from the feeling that we're doing something useful and from witnessing the changes to the landscape through the seasons.'

Other work highlighted includes:

  • Around 10,000 records encompassing over 1,100 species contributed to date.
  • The IFLI team and partner organisations have employed 17 trainees and supported another 58 trainees on employability programmes.
  • As part of the same project there have been formal support and bursaries for Masters dissertation projects with Stirling University (four bursaries have been awarded to date, with a 2017 student undertaking research into ‘The Management Effects of Wildflower Grasslands on Pollinators in Bridgeness, Firth of Forth’ supported by Buglife and IFLI staff).
  • The Future Tides project has provided 41 curriculum for excellence linked outdoor education sessions to nine primary schools and 336 pupils in the landscape.
  • Continuing the sharing of good practice, IFLI has organised a number of conferences and events for land managers on topics such as Invasive Non-native Species, Wildflower Meadow Management, and Habitat Creation.
  • IFLI is a flagship project within the Central Scotland Green Network – one of 14 national planning developments in Scottish Governments’ National Planning Framework 3. It is recognised as delivering on a range of CSGN agendas, and is used as an example of best practice in green network delivery, partnership working and stakeholder engagement. 

Kate Fuller, IFLI's Community Engagement Officer, who manages the project, added “The IFLI partnership is pleased to be shortlisted for this prestigious award that recognises the wealth of work taking place across the Inner Forth landscape to further biological and species knowledge. From our wildlife identification workshops and committed volunteer Nature Recorders, to the work that has been undertaken in primary schools and through paid traineeships, we have been uncovering, sharing and building understanding and pride of the diverse natural heritage of the Inner Forth.”

We were also delighted to hear that of our volunteers, Hugh Tooby, has himself been nominated in the Adult Newcomer Award category. He commented:
'I'm 56 years old and used to be a GP. I left the NHS in 2013 to give myself time to pursue a different career path. I'm a great believer in the benefits of active engagement with the natural world and wanted to do something to support this. My main focus and great passion over the last two years has been citizen science wildlife surveys. This started with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative in central Scotland where I live but has steadily expanded since to include such initiatives as Capturing our Coast and various British Trust for Ornithology schemes. As a lover of the sea and mountains I'm drawn to doing surveys in these places and I can use a lifetime of skills acquired in wild camping, hill walking, canoeing and mountain biking to support this which will hopefully help to fill in some of the blanks on the data map and increase our understanding of the natural world on which we ultimately all depend.'

The winners of the Awards will be announced on Thursday 16 November at the NBN's annual conference in Cardiff.