Engaging citizen scientists and landowners using mixed reality for species conservation education

This project aims to restore desired habitats. Using Augmented Reality, particularly using the Microsoft HoloLens 2, stake holders can visualise, in the field, what a restored habitat would look like and the benefits it would bring. The proposal is an additional possible element built onto the main proposal which Scottish Natural Heritage is bidding for Heritage fund funding.​

Scotland has two thirds of the UK coastline and initial work has identified c.40+ species on the Scottish Biodiversity List which are dependent for their survival on traditional and less intensively-managed coastal and island habitats. Seven bird species on the indicative list are IUCN Red Listed, two plant species are Endangered, two butterflies are assessed as IUCN Vulnerable in Britain whilst three bee species are Vulnerable at a European scale. Many other species are highly range-restricted and as such, vulnerable to random events. All are vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change and an ongoing shift from traditional land use management, two known causes of biodiversity loss identified in the State of Nature report.  The programme will build the species’ resilience and address the pressures that have pushed them to the edge, helping to halt declines and secure havens for some beleaguered species.​

Species on the Edge (SotE) is a partnership of SNH (the lead partner) and seven conservation NGOs (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, The Bat Conservation Trust, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and RSPB Scotland). Working across taxa, the partnership aims to safeguard a suite of our most vulnerable species, in need of urgent conservation action.​

SotE aims to achieve several programme outcomes, notably​:

  • Community engagement and volunteering opportunities to enable a wider range of people to be involved, particularly in rural areas where opportunities may be more limited;​
  • Practical habitat management and landowner advice to improve the condition of our natural heritage, benefiting vulnerable species;​
  • Through citizen science programmes and professional surveys we will generate information to help us better understand and explain the requirements of at-risk species;​
  • Up-skilling and training of local communities and trainees to encourage a legacy of new skills;​
  • Interpretation and awareness raising to ensure people are aware of their local heritage and encouraged to help sustain it;​
  • Provision of volunteer opportunities and engagement trails to encourage people to explore the natural heritage and improve wellbeing;​

Action will target seven landscape areas stretching from the Solway round the west coast and to Aberdeenshire, including the Northern and Western Isles.  It will involve habitat management and advice to secure and improve the species’ future, build on synergies and a common agenda to maximise conservation benefits, empower island and coastal communities to safeguard their biodiversity through training and up-skilling of a volunteer network, and raise awareness of the importance of Scotland’s biodiversity to a wide and diverse audience.  Capitalising on the extensive collective experience in the partnership, the multi-partner approach will contribute directly to two of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy objectives and associated Aichi targets, namely, to protect and restore biodiversity and to connect people with nature.​

A significant element of the work will be achieved through local communities, engaging and empowering them to maintain their local heritage.  Practical advice to achieve multi-species benefits will be developed and provided for landowners, with demonstration events used to encourage wildlife-friendly techniques into their management.  Research and learning will be supported through local schools who will be invited to be Species Ambassadors, learning about species and leading activities to support their conservation, inspiring the next generation to care for nature. ​

The development and testing is led by Dr Mairi Cole, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Dr David Cole​, Global Research. Innovation & Discovery.​