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Help needed to track tree diseases in Cumbria

Conservation charity leads call for new tree health volunteers

Ash dieback – lesion staining

The Woodland Trust is on the look-out for nature lovers in Cumbria, who are willing to be trained in the art of spotting tree pests and diseases for a national citizen science scheme.

The role of tree health surveyor is a volunteer position set up as part of Observatree – a UK-wide partnership project that aims to track 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 them to Forest Research.

Since its inception in 2013, the project has:

  • Trained well over 225 volunteers, who have given more than 16,300 hours of their time
  • 5,219 site surveys have been conducted of which over 1,500 found a tree pest or disease.

Cumbria, however, is still in dire need of volunteers – with just 1 volunteer currently active in the area.

Charlotte Armitage, citizen science officer at the Woodland Trust, said: “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.”

Those who are interested in the position can apply by visiting the Woodland Trust website. Applicants will have to go through an interview process before starting volunteer work. Deadline is end of March.

Observatree is the collaboration 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 – please visit: www.observatree.org.uk.

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