Nature Overheard survey

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We need your ears and eyes to record the sounds and sights of nature along UK roads.

Insects are vital for many habitats, but they may struggle to communicate in noisy environments.

Join hundreds of participants across the UK as we collect audio recordings and insect observations to better understand how road noise affects insects.

This activity is part of our Nature Overheard programme.

At a glance

Record audio and observe insects by the side of roads

Type of activity: Outdoors

Who can take part? Everyone

When? Spring through to Autumn
Best time of day: between 10am - 4pm

Where? Roadsides anywhere in the UK

How long will it take? 20-25 minutes

Want to find out more?

Take a look at the Survey Booklet, which has full instructions and an insect guide.

How to take part

  1. Download and print the Survey Booklet (PDF 3.1MB).
  2. Pick a street or road to survey and find a safe area within 10 metres of it.
  3. Record audio for five minutes within your survey area - capturing both the sounds of nature and human generated noise. 
  4. Walk through your survey area and record any insects you find.
  5. Copy your survey booklet results, any images and recorded audio into our online form. Don't worry if you haven't seen too much or can't hear insects on your audio - all survey data is useful to us.

Watch Ed Baker, Acoustic Biology Researcher for the project, explain how to perform the survey

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    These frequently asked questions specifically relate to the Nature Overheard roadside activity. If your question is not answered here, email the team your question at communityscience@nhm.ac.uk with Nature Overheard as the subject. 

    Ideally how far away from the road should I survey?

    Your 10m x 2m survey area should be at least two metres away from the edge of the road for safety reasons, but otherwise you can complete your survey at any other distance away from the road, so long as it is no more than 10 metres away from the edge.

    graphic of distance from road you can do the survey
    What if I can’t identify any of the things I see?

    If you are not sure what groups the creatures you see fit into, just make sure to take a photo of each one and record them in the 'other' category, along with the number you saw. This will enable us to group your findings for you. 

    Can I record the species I see?

    We hope to build species-level recordings into this survey in the future, but for now please try and take a photo of everything you see, even if you know what it is. 

    I didn’t record any insects along my survey area, should I still submit my data?

    Please submit all information that you collected during your survey even if you did not record any insects as it is still valuable to know where there are no insects! 

    I reached the limit of how many photos I was able to upload, what should I do?

    We hope that this won’t happen, but please be sure to upload the best photo of each individual you saw. 

    What happens if I make a mistake when inputting the data, can it be edited?

    Please take your time when submitting your data to avoid any errors, however, if this happens, please email us at communityscience@nhm.ac.uk with Nature Overheard as the subject.

    What happens to the information I submit?

    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. Any personal data is limited to:
    1) a name, necessary for the purposes of forming a biological record
    2) an email address, should you wish and consent to receive news and project updates.

    You can also read the Museum's full privacy notice.

    When should I submit my data by?

    We encourage you to share your data as soon as possible following your survey to ensure accuracy and for it to be included in the latest analysis. 

    When will you provide results of the survey?

    To receive regular updates and summaries of the data submitted, be sure to include an email address and consent to communications from the Community Science Programme when you upload data.

    Or you can sign up to our mailing list.

    If I want to do the survey more than once, is it better to repeat a previous section of a road, or to choose a different location?

    Repeated surveys in the same area will be extremely valuable to help us gather as much information as possible and look at changes over time, but if you’d like to survey a different road then this information is also valuable. 

The importance of your audio recordings

Audio recordings are a pivotal component of our survey - they serve as the foundation for improving our algorithm’s ability to process and distinguish between insect and human sounds.

Don't worry if you don't think you can hear any insect activity on your recording - it's important we collect as much data as possible, as it all helps to analyse the recordings.

Why not take repeat surveys?

We’d love for you to take part as often as possible, either at the same road or you can choose a few different one. A good target to aim for is once a month or three times across spring, summer, and autumn.

If you repeating the survey without needing futher instructions, you can download the Simplified survey booklet (PDF 1.4MB).

Make it a shared activity

How about making it a shared activity? Participating with friends, family, or neighbours can be more fun and will amplify the impact of your efforts. If you are running a group survey, we have a Group leader guide (PDF 6.7MB).

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What did I enjoy most about taking part?

Being outside discovering the diversity of insects in our survey area which are generally overlooked. Seeing employees amazed with their finds, spotting insects which they had never seen previously, photographing and then researching what they had discovered.   

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Matthew Jeffries

Corporate volunteer, N-ERGISE


Post-survey questionnaire

If you've taken part in the survey, please give us your feedback by completing a short questionnaire.

How sound technology can reveal the impact of noise pollution on insects

Animals communicate with each other, often through making sounds. This means that in noisy environments, animals can be forced to change how they communicate so that they can be heard. Although insects play a critical role in sustaining a healthy environment, these effects have been too challenging to study at scale until now.

Museum scientist Ed Baker has been developing the technology to disentangle background noise from sound recordings to detect insects and other wildlife. He’s excited about what this project can achieve.

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Although decoding audio recordings is difficult, the more we have the easier it becomes.

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Ed Baker

Museum scientist

By learning more about how insects are impacted by noise pollution, we can support road developers, councils, and others to make our roads better for nature.

Repeated surveys will be extremely valuable to help us gather as much information as possible, but if you can only do the survey once then this will still help us answer our questions.

Sign-up to our mailing list to be kept up to date

Don’t miss out on the latest findings from our data analysis. Join the Community Science mailing list to find out about the survey's discoveries.

Funding

Nature Overheard is part of the Urban Nature Project. We thank all those who have generously contributed, including:

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