One of the integral aspects of many Darwin Initiative projects is their focus on research into the drivers of biodiversity loss and the development of innovative solutions. Many projects offer a unique and insightful opportunity for early career researchers to get hand-on experience – not only in core scientific techniques, such as data collection and analysis, but also in community engagement and awareness raising. Through involving young scientists in Darwin projects they not only support the project but build their own skills and experience under the guidance of an experienced project team.
In this blog series, we share will share the experiences from two MSc students that were recently involved in Darwin Plus projects in Cyprus and Turks and Caicos. In this first post we hear from an early career researcher and her involvement in the Risky project led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
As an early career researcher, I had the opportunity to be involved in the Darwin funded Risky project (www.ris-ky.eu) and the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme Kýpros (Poms-ký). My involvement in these projects was equally empowering and very interesting. As part of my MSc thesis I was able to work alongside my supervisors, Prof. Helen Roy, Dr. Kelly Martinou, Dr. Marc Botham and Jodey Payton during this wonderful opportunity.
Poms-ký is a citizen science programme which aims to provide a scientific evidence base for assessing changes in pollinator populations and communities and their interactions with native and non-native plants in Cyprus. It is a monitoring project designed to raise the awareness of citizens of all ages about pollinators while gathering data. It is the first scheme of its kind in Cyprus for monitoring pollinating insects that visit crops and wild plants.
Organising and running a monitoring programme requires teamwork. In an effort to modify the British Pollinator Monitoring Scheme to better fit the needs of Cyprus the Poms-ký team had to work together to design a recording form, flower and insect guide. These guides would be used to enable citizens involved in the project to carry out flower-insect times (FIT) counts. Furthermore, in collaboration with the teachers of the Environmental Centre of Akrotiri, in Cyprus, we decided to design a pollinator monitoring scheme programme similar to Poms-ký, which would help to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators to children.
During my involvement in the project we organised two workshops to inform and involve the communities in the Akrotiri Peninsula area. My main tasks were to check and test the recording form and make sure it was user friendly. To do that, I carried out FIT counts for eight months, in different areas around Akrotiri Peninsula, Limassol, Kyrenia, Ammohostos and Troodos. In addition, one of my tasks was to meet with community members and explain the importance of pollinating insects and to show them the correct way to collect data using the FIT count approach. Overall, I found that working with the communities was the most enjoyable part of my experience. I believe that citizen science plays an important role in the future of science and is an excellent way to ensure that communities understand and support nature.
My involvement in this programme gave me the opportunity to meet and collaborate with experienced scientists, and has helped me to gain confidence in teamwork and as a researcher. In addition, I gained greater understanding of the power of citizen science and greater appreciation of how much can be achieved when we work together. I feel very happy to have been part of this project and I believe that it was a great opportunity for me, and I would like definitely do it again. I would strongly encourage other early career scientists to get involved in Darwin projects or other research focused projects.
For further information on project DPLUS088 led by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology working in Cyprus, please click here.