The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
The Floodplain Meadows Partnership (FMP), hosted by the Open University, has been collecting data on the rare plant species snake’s-head fritillary at a National Nature Reserve (North Meadow, Cricklade, Wilts) since 1999, using volunteers. The main pollinator of the snake’s-head fritillary is the bumblebee and the FMP became concerned that reported declines in bumblebee populations would have an impact on this plant. In 2012, funds were secured to expand the numbers of volunteers counting across two new sites and establish bumblebee surveys on the three sites. In 2015, further funds were secured to continue and develop the project.
Over six years the project increased the numbers of volunteers more than three-fold through wide advertising. Annual workshops were run to enable volunteers to engage in the findings and the research process. Volunteer attendance at counts and workshops was maintained and volunteer engagement assessed through questionnaires and interviews. Evidence arising from the project has led to new ecological information about a rare plant found on internationally important sites for nature conservation and more in-depth volunteer research is showing a link between the snake’s-head fritillary and bumblebees.
Data collected by the project are used in 3 Open University undergraduate courses and the project has maintained a wide external profile, engaging with many organisations outside the University and with slots on Countryfile, BBC Farming Today and BBC Wiltshire.