Open Air Laboratories Network (OPAL)

Open Air Laboratories Network (OPAL)

The Open Air Laboratories Network (OPAL) is a partnership initiative throughout England that aims to get the public more involved with nature through a range of local and national projects. The initiative is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund Changing Spaces Programme.

The portfolio of partners includes nine regional universities, the Natural History Museum, the Open University, the Field Studies Council, the Meteorological Office, the National Biodiversity Network, the Royal Parks and the Environment Agency. The lead partner is Imperial College, London.

From 2009-2011, OPAL will be conducting six national surveys on soil, water quality, air quality, climate, biodiversity and invertebrates. By involving the public in scientific research, the hope is to collect a vast amount of data that can be used to build up a picture of England's natural environment. Additionally, it hopes to inspire the public into becoming more involved in nature.


Soil and earthworm survey

The OPAL soil and earthworm survey launched in March 2009 by the OPAL Soil Centre at Imperial College London. It has been supported by a number of celebrities including Steve Leonard and Chris Packham. The survey aims to learn more about soil and earthworm distribution in England and the effects that humans are having on soil quality. People are asked to upload their findings directly onto the OPAL website. Survey results will be analysed by the OPAL Soil Centre at Imperial College London who are also coordinating the survey.

Air survey

The OPAL air survey launched in September 2009 and is being coordinated by Imperial College London. The survey asks people to look for lichens on trees and tar spot fungus on sycamore leaves and then record their results online. It is hoped the large scale survey will help scientists learn more about the effects of air pollution. the survey is being supported by a number of organisations including the British Lichen Society.

Water survey

The OPAL water survey launched in May 2010 and is being coordinated by University College London (UCL). The survey asks people to go pond-dipping and identify the invertebrates living in their local pond or lake. Using this information they can then find out how polluted the water is, as some creatures are more tolearnt of pollution than others. Results are collected online and will help scientists learn more about lakes and ponds across England.

Biodiversity survey

The OPAL biodiversity survey launched in September 2010 and is being coordinated by the Open University (OU). The survey asks the public to investigate their hedges and look for invertebrates and other signs of wildlife. Hedges are incresdibly important habitats for many creatures and the survey hopes to raise awareness and learn more about life in hedges across the country.

Climate survey

The OPAL climate survey launched in March 2011 and is being coordinated by the Met Office. It asks people to look for contrails in the sky, estimate their thermal comfort, and measure wind using bubbles.

The results will help us learn more about the ways we affect our climate, and how we may adapt to it.

Bugs Count

Bugs Count is the 6th OPAL survey and will launch in June 2011. It aims to collect data on bugs and other invertebrates that live all around us.

Projects and partners

OPAL comprises a total of 31 projects. These projects are listed below, together with the institution (OPAL partner) responsible for the project's delivery.

1. OPAL North West - University of Central Lancashire

2. OPAL North East - University of Newcastle

3. OPAL York and Humber - University of York

4. OPAL East Midlands - University of Nottingham

5. OPAL West Midlands - University of Birmingham

6. OPAL East of England - University of Hertfordshire

7. OPAL London - Imperial College London

8. OPAL South East - Imperial College London

9. OPAL South West - University of Plymouth

10. OPAL Air Quality Centre - Imperial College London

11. OPAL Aquatic Bio-monitoring Programme - University College London

12. OPAL Water Centre - University College London

13. OPAL Soil Centre - Imperial College London

14. Climate Change Education Centre - Met Office

15. OPAL Climate Change Research Centre - Imperial College London

16. Parks - Royal Parks

17. OPAL Learning Packs - Field Studies Council

18. Infrastructure for Data Exchange - National Biodiversity Network Trust

19. OPAL Communications Office - Natural History Museum

20. OPAL Portal - Natural History Museum

21. OPAL Exhibitions and Community Led Celebrations - Natural History Museum

22. Bio-buses Community Outreach Vehicles and support materials - Natural History Museum

23. Bio-diversity Observatory: Co-ordination and Outreach - Open University

24. Biodiversity Observatory: Software and Accessibility Design and Implementation - Open University

25. OPAL Bayesian Keys - Open University

26. Mentoring and Online Support for Biodiversity - Open University

27. Online Community Building for the Biodiversity Observatory - Open University

28. Neighbourhood Nature Educational Course - Open University

29. Supporting and Enabling Amateur Natural History Societies - Natural History Museum

30. The Naming of Things - The OPAL Taxonomic Support Programme - Natural History Museum

31. State of the Environment Report - Imperial College London

External links

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