As part of our Keith Duckworth Scholarship-funded research project, PhD researcher Hugh Hanmer mobilised a fleet of volunteers across Reading to undertake a major garden-based experiment.

Citizen scientists are critical to the success of conservation projects, with 'many hands on deck' allowing data to be collected on a wide scale. It's also a great way for communities to learn more about wildlife in their local area.

With the help of 130 volunteer gardens across 20 areas in Reading, Hugh aimed to understand the effects of bird feeding on local breeding success. He also used volunteers to examine the issue of potential disease transmission at feeders.

Volunteers received a set of feeders, including filled and empty control feeders, which were set up in their gardens and monitored by camera traps for two weeks. After the two weeks were up, the feeders were swabbed and cameras taken in so the footage could be analysed. The cameras gave a representative sample of which animals visited the feeders.

Social attitudes play an important role in urban conservation and this is an area that should perhaps be explored more deeply. Hugh's research is spreading the word about songbird conservation, and helping people learn how they can look after their garden birds better. Hugh's research has revealed some fascinating insights into garden birds; to read more about it, visit our Gardens for Birds page.

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