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Natural History Museum to launch innovative digital storytelling project using data about the movement of people during lockdown to help crowdsource research ideas about the environmental impacts of Covid-19

As part of a brand new public engagement initiative around the environmental impacts of Covid-19, the Natural History Museum is collaborating with data visualisation company Beyond Words to illustrate how the movement of people has altered during lockdown.

Using a variety of open source data, the Museum will engage people with the dramatic societal changes that have taken place since lockdown measures were announced on 23 March.

Through compelling infographics, articles, videos and social media which bring this data to life, the Museum will crowdsource perspectives from the public to discover which three environmental impacts of the lockdown they are most interested in. The project, which has received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, will culminate in a live interactive online event in which audiences can pose questions to young and emerging researchers about those topics.

The Natural History Museum’s Executive Director of Public Engagement Clare Matterson says: “From goats colonising deserted streets in Wales to cleaner air and clear skies in London, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented view of our world with minimal human presence. We want to use this new appreciation of the human impact on the natural world to enhance understanding of our role in the interconnectedness of nature and excite people about the possibilities of environmental science. It is also an incredibly valuable listening exercise - an exciting opportunity to find out which environmental impacts the public care most about to help shape not only future exhibitions, and events but also scientific research projects.”

The project will draw on the unique strengths of the Museum which is both a world-leading scientific research centre and one of the most visited tourist attractions in the UK. A number of the Museum’s departments will be involved such as the digital team, whose output reached a diverse and broad audience of 14 million via the website in 2019,  its audience research and advocacy and science communicator teams -  as well as drawing on the expertise of its 300 scientists.

Duncan Swain, Partner and Creative Director, Beyond Words says: “Beyond Words Studio specialises in telling very human stories with data -  and what could be more human than tracking the shifts in people’s movements and habits since COVID-19 has spread across the world? It's an amazing opportunity to be able to explore datasets with the Natural History Museum’s scientists, and we're super-excited to create some beautiful visualizations of the changing impacts we’re all having on the environment around us.”

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Notes for editors

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About the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. 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. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous 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 over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.

About UK Research and Innovation

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. www.ukri.org

About the Natural Environment Research Council

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. www.nerc.ukri.org

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