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Durham University

Research & business

Animal spotting project helps double children’s mammal knowledge

(4 February 2020)

A roe deer captured on camera by a MammalWeb motion-sensing camera

A roe deer photographed by MammalWeb

A citizen science project we ran in schools has dramatically increased children’s knowledge of UK wild mammals.

All about MammalWeb…

For our MammalWeb project, schools placed motion-sensing cameras in their grounds to capture images of wildlife.

School children plus community volunteers then identified the wildlife photographed.

The results

The project has supported conservation efforts, by showing how common or rare different species are.

Interestingly, it has also had a striking impact on children’s knowledge of wildlife.

Before the project, the children involved were able to name on average three wild UK mammals. Afterwards, this had doubled to six.

Beforehand, most pupils were able to name more domestic animals than wild animals and a quarter of pupils named zoo animals such as lions as UK mammals.

Afterwards, many were better able to distinguish between species native to the UK and those introduced to the country, and more named animals by species rather than group – for instance ‘grey squirrel’ instead of just ‘squirrel’.

Their teachers’ knowledge of UK mammals also increased and many schools got involved in other environmental projects.

In numbers…

42: primary schools in North East England had motion-sensing cameras placed in their grounds

2,000: photo sequences were captured

3,000: school children helped classify the photographs

13,000: identifications were submitted

What next?

Researchers from our Biosciences Department hope to work with the British Ecological Society to roll out the MammalWeb project in more schools across the UK.

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