Gardener, Botanist, Citizen Scientist?

Waiting for the ferry

Most gardeners are good botanists and when interrogated will often reveal a profound knowledge of garden ecology and the wildlife that inhabits their garden and beyond. Many of us take part in all kinds of surveys from garden birds to butterflies and have unbeknowingly been secretly recruited as “citizen scientists”. We have all been citizen scientists long before the PR guru/media nerd, who invented this awful phrase, was let out of kindergarden. Infact amateur naturalists have been pottering way in the countryside since before Gilbert White took holy orders and William Turner became the father of English botany.
It really has taken the men in grey suits rather a long time to realise most of our knowledge on the flora and fauna of the British Isles is based on the work of amateur naturalists. Moreover this army of volunteers can be mobilised to provide a whole host of environmental information for almost nothing. A prospect to make any government accountants heart beat with joy. However, appearances can be deceptive and some of these genteel and mild-mannered amateur ‘ologists, whilst not exactly eco-warriors, can be surprisingly fierce when roused
So as one of the “leaders” of a ragtag gang of assorted ‘ologists (we can only manage a dozen or so on a good day so we don’t count as an army) last week I was on my way to Inverness to “speak truth unto power”. I don’t normally drag my soapbox all the way across Scotland, but sometimes you can’t beat a face to face frank exchange of views and even a little metaphorical table thumping. This was just the opening skirmish, and it will be a hard fought battle, but we are a stubborn and determined bunch and even if we can’t win we will gain major concessions.
So far the only casualty has been my blog which is suffering from neglect and my posts are more erratic than ever. My muse is also grumbling but has been told that she has to exercise her grey matter and put her literary pretensions aside. So my apologies, the periods of AWOL will be more frequent, but I’m still around, reading your posts, visiting your gardens and enjoying your adventures.
If you want to discover more about the “edge of the world ragtag gang” (aka Outer Hebrides Biological Recording) we have a website and a paininthe*book page (I don’t understand social media but apparently we have to have one).

6 thoughts on “Gardener, Botanist, Citizen Scientist?

  1. I have missed something here, why were you banging the table in Inverness?

    • No, I chose not to bore everyone with the details. We and a couple of other similar voluntary biological recording groups insist that the information we collect is made freely available to everyone. We don’t get paid for what we do but receive small grants to defer some of the costs. There are other groups who collect information from amateur and professional naturalists but do not make the information freely available – i.e. there is a price for access which helps fund their operation (i.e. staff, offices etc.). We are being pressured to adopt this method of model, we are refusing and hence the fight (and table thumping). To win we have to come up with a viable alternative, so I will be spending more time than I would like sitting in meetings and writing briefing notes etc.

  2. A wonderful Big Sky photo, and I echo your comments about amateur naturalists being a huge resource, to be appreciated, and not as often seems the case round here, dismissed as sources of mere anecdotal sightings….of great inferiority to the might of pages of desk top analysis of existing databases from distant areas…. I could go on, but it sounds that you have your own battles to fight, and so I wish you well.
    Your website looks a great idea, and I hope that over the years you amass a huge source of valuable observations about what is I’m sure an area of wonderful biodiveristy,
    best wishes

    • Thanks Julian, this is exactly what we’re fighting for – the recognition of the value of the work we do and our insistence that all the information we collect is available to everyone for free. It is a fairly typical David and Goliath, but we have some powerful allies and will not give up. Unfortunately, to win we have to play the game according to their rules, so time has to be devoted to the paperwork and sitting in meetings.

  3. Well good luck with it. It seems to be a battle worth fighting.
    Gorgeous photo.

    • Thank you. I’m not a political animal, but sometimes the need to speak my mind gets the better of my common sense.

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