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Investigating the link between noise pollution and insect populations in the UK
On Earth Day (April 22), the Natural History Museum is launching a major new community science project ‘Nature Overheard’, investigating the link between noise pollution and insect populations. Community science (also known as citizen science) invites the public to actively participate in the Museum’s research, in this case by recording observations of wildlife, which are vital data for understanding the natural world.
‘Nature Overheard’ emerged from a Museum appeal for students across the UK aged 11-14 to share their own research questions to investigate nature in the urban environment. The important question, ‘how can we make roads better for nature?’ was chosen. A selection of students then collaborated with Museum scientists to codesign an exciting and innovative research project. The team are now inviting the public to join in their investigation to understand more about how insects are impacted by noise pollution. The results will support road developers, councils, and others to make roads better for nature.
Anyone can get involved by
1. Picking a street or road to survey
2. Recording audio for 5 minutes – capturing both the sounds of nature and human-generated noise
3. Walking along a road for 10 metres recording any insects found, these might include bees, wasps, ants, hoverflies, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers and crickets
4. Submitting data via our online recording form
Insect declines are being seen on local, regional, and global levels due to a combination of habitat loss, increases of pests and disease, climate change and increased use of pesticides. Many insects make sounds to communicate with each other, which means that they can also be negatively affected by noisy environments, where they can be forced to alter their communication so that they can be heard.
Although insects play a critical role in maintaining a healthy environment, these effects have been too challenging to study at scale, until now. Acoustic Biology Researcher at the Museum Ed Baker has been developing the technology to disentangle background noise and detect insects and other wildlife.
Ed Baker, Acoustic Biology Researcher at the Natural History Museum said, “The data from Nature Overheard will form an essential tool in unlocking new solutions to the decline in insect populations and further science-informed nature recovery in the UK. Focusing on acoustic data is a key way to monitor biodiversity and make our roads better for nature.”
Dr Abigail Lowe, Community Science Officer at the Natural History Museum said, “Anyone can take part in Nature Overheard, you don’t need specific skills or training as we tell you everything you need to know to get involved. It’s a fun, free way to enjoy nature while doing your bit to protect the environment in the UK.”
‘Nature Overheard’ is part of the Museum’s Urban Nature Project, designed in response to the urgent need to both monitor and record changes to the UK's urban nature. The project develops online, onsite and national monitoring and community science programmes as well as current work underway to transform the Museum’s five-acre gardens in South Kensington into a globally relevant urban nature ‘epicentre’, helping to safeguard nature’s future.
The data from the project will go onto the Museum’s new data platform, the Data Ecosystem, which is being built using Amazon Web Services technologies. The Data Ecosystem allows researchers to build a deeper understanding of the UK’s urban biodiversity, including its composition, how it relates to environmental conditions, and how it responds to direct conservation action.
The Data Ecosystem is helping transform the Museum’s scientific research and community science capabilities by bringing together a broad range of UK biodiversity and environmental data types in one place for the first time. This helps the Museum’s scientists to build on scientific understanding of the UK’s biodiversity and environment, encourage more integrated cross-disciplinary research programmes, and drive forward science-led nature recovery in the UK’s urban spaces.
You can find out more about Nature Overheard at www.nhm.ac.uk/natureoverheard
You can find out more about the Urban Nature Project at
Notes to editors
Natural History Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654 / 07799690151 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited indoor attraction in the UK. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.
It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens accessed by researchers from all over the world both in person and via over 30 billion digital data downloads to date. The Museum’s 350 scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency from biodiversity loss through to the sustainable extraction of natural resources.
The Museum uses its global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome millions of visitors through our doors each year, our website has had 17 million visits in the last year and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 20 million people in the last 10 years.
The Urban Nature Project
The Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project is designed in response to the urgent need to both monitor and record changes to the UK's urban nature. Working in partnership with museums and wildlife organisations across the UK, the project will develop online, onsite and national monitoring and citizen science programmes as well as transform the Museum’s five-acre gardens in South Kensington into a globally relevant urban nature ‘epicentre’, helping to safeguard nature’s future.
Supporters and sponsors
A wide variety of trusts, foundations, companies and individuals are supporting the Urban Nature Project including Amazon Web Services, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Evolution Education Trust, the Cadogan Charity, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Kusuma Trust, the Wolfson Foundation, Charles Wilson and Rowena Olegario, The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Huo Family Foundation (UK), Johnson Matthey, Workman LLP and the Trustees and Executive Board of the Museum.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.
Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £46billion for projects and more than 670,000 grants have been awarded across the UK - the equivalent of more than 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.
The Evolution Education Trust
The Evolution Education Trust helps raise awareness of the importance of the Theory of Evolution by funding impactful projects in the areas of therapeutics, education, conservation and fundamental research.
The Cadogan Charity
The Cadogan Charity supports communities, contributes to a sustainable environment and protects heritage. It has supported charities involved in animal welfare, education, conservation and the environment, military, medical research and social welfare.
Garfield Weston Foundation
Established over 60 years ago in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making charity which supports causes across the UK and, in the most recent financial year, gave over £98million as the Trustees were highly conscious of the challenges presented by Covid-19 to the charitable sector. Since it was established, it has exceeded donations of more than £1billion, of which well over half has been given in the past ten years.
One of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason, amongst others – a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown, so too have the charitable donations.
Known for its transparency, flexibility and straightforward approach, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities from small community organisations to large national institutions. Around 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.
The Kusuma Trust
The Kusuma Trust UK is a family led philanthropic trust established in 2010. The Trust gives grants to organisations based on shared values and mutual interests in the UK, Gibraltar and India. Its current areas of interest are creating access to opportunities, improving health and well-being, and investing in our communities and environment.
The Wolfson Foundation
The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity with a focus on research and education. Its aim is to support civil society by investing in excellent projects in science, health, heritage, humanities and the arts. Since it was established in 1955, some £1 billion (£2 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 14,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review. Twitter: @wolfsonfdn
The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851
The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 was established in 1850 to organise the Great Exhibition. The Exhibition made a significant surplus which the Commission, under the guidance of Prince Albert, used to purchase an estate in South Kensington. This estate has developed to become a centre of scientific, cultural and educational excellence which now houses the Natural History, Science and V&A museums; Imperial College London; the Royal Colleges of Art and Music; and the Royal Albert Hall, all of which the Commission continues to support in their work in education, research, science and the arts. Today, it is focussed predominantly on awarding postgraduate Fellowships and Scholarships, for advanced study and research in science, engineering, the built environment and design. It also awards grants to support projects consistent with its overall aims, many of which are focused on raising the awareness of the young to the opportunities presented by science and engineering.
The Huo Family Foundation
The Huo Family Foundation is a grant-giving foundation. Its mission is to support education, communities and the pursuit of knowledge. The Foundation previously supported the Natural History Museum’s ‘ID Trainers for the Future’ project which was a response to the critical and growing shortage of wildlife identification and recording skills in the UK.
Johnson Matthey is a global leader in science that enables a cleaner and healthier world. With over 200 years of sustained commitment to innovation and technological breakthroughs, we improve the performance, function and safety of our customers’ products and in 2020 we received the London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark, given to companies that derive more than 50% of revenues from environmental solutions. Our science has a global impact in areas such as low emission transport, pharmaceuticals, chemical processing and making the most efficient use of the planet’s natural resources. Today more than 15,000 Johnson Matthey professionals collaborate with our network of customers and partners to make a real difference to the world around us.
Workman LLP is the UK’s largest independently owned commercial property management and building consultancy firm employing more than 700 staff across 12 UK offices, with a growing presence in Europe. Specialist Property Management and Building Consultancy teams work with a client base which includes leading institutional funds, overseas investors and property companies. What sets Workman apart from the competition is its specialist focus, national coverage, and independent status. For further information, visit www.workman.co.uk or to find out more about Workman’s drive to build biodiversity across its managed portfolio, visit www.workman-building-biodiversity.co.uk.