The Urban Nature Project

We're working in partnership across the UK to start a new urban nature movement.

It has never been more important to make our towns and cities healthy and sustainable places to live.

Wildlife is in trouble in the UK. The natural world faces unprecedented declines and needs help now more than ever. We particularly need to understand and protect nature in our cities, so monitoring its changes is vital.

The future of the natural world is in our hands and everyone can play a part in helping it. We're working to give people across the UK, no matter who they are or where they live, the motivation and tools to safeguard nature in towns and cities, so that people and planet can thrive.

British wildlife

Find out about the plants and animals that make the UK home.

Transforming the Museum gardens

The Museum's five-acre site in South Kensington is being transformed into a welcoming, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London.

New outdoor galleries will showcase the Museum's scientific research and provide a space for the public to learn about the incredible diversity of life on Earth and how our planet has changed over time. Access to the garden will also be improved, with universal step-free routes across the site.

The existing Wildlife Garden will be extended to double the area of native habitats within the grounds, providing a fabulous setting for our historic building. 

Museum staff will also work with organisations across the UK to inspire the next generation, create new opportunities for young people in cities and help everyone to learn about humanity's impact on the natural world.

An expanded schools programme at the Museum will allow schools to explore the gardens with a focus on building a connection with nature, valuing biodiversity and pro-environmental actions.  

Working in partnership with local groups, a community programme will co-create four family activities and resources for an onsite family learning programme. This will include self-guided experiences, handling stations, natural crafts and activities contributing to urban biodiversity. All will be delivered to family groups with children aged six and over and will be an opportunity for families to learn together and from each other about the species that can be commonly found in and around London.

A new volunteer programme will be delivered, and a summer programme for 35 school leavers will also be rolled out. 

A family in the middle of a bioblitz in the Museum's current Wildlife Garden

The Museum's redesigned grounds will be a space for families and scientists alike to learn more about urban nature

 

News from the project

  • In preparation for the garden transformation, there will be works taking place across the gardens from 31 January to 7 February 2022. The east lawn and its pathways will be closed on 31 January and 1 February. The Darwin Centre Courtyard will be closed on 2 and 3 February. The Wildlife Garden will be closed between 2 and 7 February.
  • We are replacing some of the existing trees and, over the next 18 months, we'll be introducing black poplars, one of the UK’s rarest native trees and of significant conservation interest. There will also be many more trees planted across the site.
  • A planning application has been approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation.
  • The design teams leading the gardens transformation are Feilden Fowles and J & L Gibbons, and the project management consultants are Mace.
  • The Museum has also worked with several external experts and consultants who have provided feedback at critical points in during the design process.  
  • Building work is due to start in 2022 and the transformed gardens are due to be opened in 2023.

Ways to take part

Taking that first step into nature can be daunting for some, so a new online hub will provide a range of ways to support you to act on behalf of nature. It will provide ideas for activities you can do by yourself, and suggestions for how to engage with organisations and schemes that offer bigger projects.

We'll be running a series of community science events for people to contribute their observations. There will be seasonal monitoring projects throughout the year, and two larger projects over the spring and summer months.

Look out for our work with other organisations that share our vision. For example, we are working with London’s Grow2Know as they help local residents to plant and maintain their own prairie garden and find out more about the species living near them.

Support the project

This momentous project will not be possible without your help. 

Your donation could help us to transform our biologically diverse gardens, inspire the next generation to love and care for urban wildlife or support our scientists in their fight to halt biodiversity decline.

We need to shift our perspective of nature. We need to learn more, connect with each other and act together to protect our urban nature, and we need to do it now. 

Whatever your contribution, join the urban nature movement today and help protect the wildlife we share our cities with.

The science

The Urban Nature Project is developing new scientific tools and skills urgently needed to monitor, understand and protect urban nature.

Understanding how wildlife is responding to change requires large volumes of data. The Museum is taking the lead in convening a national partnership of urban nature professionals, including academic researchers and conservation practitioners.

The gardens will become a hub for urban nature identification and field survey skills. We are piloting a range of technologies for monitoring change in urban environments, including eDNA and acoustic monitoring, and sharing these with our partners alongside a DNA library and teaching collection. 

A series of workshops on how to best monitor and manage urban nature are being run in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust. 

Up to five new long-term urban wildlife study and engagement sites across the UK are also being established to act as test beds for how best to manage urban spaces for wildlife.

We are developing a new public-facing biodiversity and environmental monitoring data ecosystem to help capture, share and interpret urban nature data for different audiences.

Through cross-sector consultation we are identifying key species and habitats to monitor as the 'canaries in the mine' to track change within the UK's urban biodiversity, in addition to developing easy ways to monitor these species.

Our work will make it easier, quicker and cheaper to monitor urban habitats by developing and implementing low-cost, efficient and effective DNA, acoustic and digital environmental monitoring methodologies. Large-scale open access datasets of the information collected will then be made available for research and conservation use. 

Biodiversity officer Sam shows us how he is studying the Museum's Wildlife Garden to learn more about the animals and plants that live there.

 

Working with young people

The project is working to inspire the next generation to care for the nature that surrounds them. A UK-wide network of partners is delivering training and activities to schools and young people across the country.

The Explore: Urban Nature programme is supporting teachers and students. It provides training for teachers, curriculum-linked learning resources, hands-on outdoor workshops and a new community science project informed by student ideas and questions.

In partnership with the Prince’s Trust, we are creating a Youth Workers’ Toolkit to support informal ways of learning. It will equip youth workers with activities and conversation starters they can use with young people to open the door to nature around them.

We have developed a Youth Advisory Panel, giving young people a voice. We have heard from 24 young people so far and supported their personal development and skills. Our first Youth Advisory Panel shared their thoughts and recommendations on improving access to nature for all. Our next panel starts in 2022 and it will develop digital content that tells local urban nature stories.

To help us reach disadvantaged young people with low connection to nature, we will work in partnership with The Prince's Trust to develop a series of programmes aimed at young people aged 18-25 who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and young people aged 14-18 who are at risk of becoming NEET.

Thirty-six young people will be involved in the Prince's Trust Get Started with Urban Ecology programme at the Museum, Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust and RSPB Glasgow sites. The programme will provide a week-long placement on site, providing engagement motivation, urban ecology learning and career entry level skills development, with 12 weeks of mentoring following the placement.   

An infographic showing our Real World Science partners across the country, including in Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Peterborough, Dorset and Stoke-on-Trent.

We can't do it alone. A UK-wide learning programme will provide young people, families and schools with opportunities to take part in urban nature activities.

Funding

We thank all those who have generously contributed to the Urban Nature Project so far, including:

UNP funders logo