Volunteers sought to help tree research

The North-east is one of the areas for which Observatree has a shortage of volunteer surveyors. The dealine for applications is the end of March.
The North-east is one of the areas for which Observatree has a shortage of volunteer surveyors. The dealine for applications is the end of March.

An appeal has gone out to local nature lovers to help with a national science project which aims to monitor the health of the country’s trees.

The Woodland Trust is on the look-out for volunteer tree health surveyors to support Observatree – a UK-wide partnership project that tracks tree pests and diseases across the UK.

The trust is recruiting the volunteers, and will teach them how to identify threats such as ash dieback, acute oak decline and Asian longhorn beetle, before reporting to Forest Research.

Since its launch in 2013, the project has trained 225 volunteers, who have given more than 16,300 hours of their time and 5,219 site surveys have been conducted, of which more than 1,500 found a tree pest or disease.

In Scotland only the central belt is currently well covered by volunteers but more are needed elsewhere – including the North-east.

Charlotte Armitage, citizen science officer at the Woodland Trust, said that volunteers are a key part of the scheme.

She continued: “Observatree volunteers are instrumental in tracking pests and diseases– they need strong tree ID skills and an enthusiasm for nature to drive investigations across the UK.

“However, we still need more people to join our ranks. By signing up as a tree health surveyor, you can help scientists in the forestry sector understand and react to the threats facing our native trees.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for a position with Observatree can apply by visiting the Woodland Trust website. Applicants will have to go through an interview process and the deadline for applications is the end of March.

Observatree is led by Forest Research, supported by the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission England, Defra, Fera Science Ltd, the Animal & Plant Health Agency, the National Trust, The Welsh Government and Forestry Commission Scotland.

The project has funding of £231,000 per year, and additional support, from a wide range of conservation and government bodies.

To find out more about Observatree and tree pests and diseases, visit www.observatree.org.uk.