School children dig in for science

01 Sep 2015 | No. 2015-47

School children across the country are getting ready to dig up their school playing fields in the name of science.

As part of a national citizen science project, schools will make their first digs in October to investigate the animal life living beneath their school grounds. By examining and reporting what they find, all of the schools taking part in ‘What’s Under Your Feet?’ will be helping scientists at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to discover what lives in the soil they sample.

The project, a UK-wide collaboration between BTO and EDF Energy, will map the creatures that are living under our feet for the first time. Many of these largely unseen invertebrates form an important source of food for Britain’s birds but little is known about how many there are, where they are or how their presence changes across the UK. These are just a few of the gaps in our knowledge that the school children will be helping to fill, there are many more. More than 900 schools and seven local authorities have signed up already, promising to make this one of the biggest school citizen scientist projects ever undertaken.

Dr Blaise Martay, Research Ecologist at the BTO and project lead, said: “Soil invertebrates are such an important part of our ecosystem and yet we know so little about them. It is really exciting to think that over the coming months, children all over the country will be collecting the data needed to map differences in numbers and types of soil invertebrates. This project will make great strides in increasing our understanding of soil invertebrates and how bird numbers are affected by them, something we couldn’t do without the help of citizen scientists.”

Robyn Thorn, EDF Energy’s Education Programme Manager, said: “We’re really excited about being able to encourage young people across the UK to find out how rewarding and fascinating science can be.  What’s under your feet is a real life experiment that is not only hands on and fun to be part of but is also scientifically important and beneficial. We hope by taking part, young people will be inspired to continue to study science and to go on and think about it when they make their career choices.”

Louise Ambler, Deputy Head Teacher at The Bridge School, Runcorn, said:“The Bridge School is on an old industrial site so the chance to see the wildlife that is in their area could prove to be a real eye-opener for the students. We’re excited to be taking part in the ‘What’s Under Your Feet’ activity and build the students’ understanding of green issues and local ecosystems.”

The time to start digging in those playing fields is almost here, so if your school hasn’t registered for this exciting scientific project, please visit

Notes for Editors

  1. The Pod, EDF Energy’s award-winning schools programme
    Launched in September 2008, the Pod is EDF Energy’s award-winning programme for schools. It was originally developed to help EDF Energy meet its Sustainability Commitment of engaging with 2.5 million children by 2012 in learning about the sustainable use of energy. The Pod now has over 19,700 schools and community groups registered (including over 170 schools overseas) and is estimated to have engaged in excess of 10 million schoolchildren. It aims to engage young people (aged 4 to 14) on energy, science and sustainability by providing free curriculum-linked activities and materials for teachers. The website,, provides free lesson plans, activities, games, videos and information, all with cross curricular links. The content is currently aimed at key stages 1, 2 and 3. The ethos of the Pod is ‘learn, act, inspire’ – helping young people learn about an issue, take action on this, and inspire others with their achievements through blogs, photos and videos to showcase their work.
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation

Contact Details

Emma Douglas
(BTO Head of Fundraising)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: emma.douglas [at]

Blaise Martay
(BTO Research Ecologist)

Office: 01786 466560
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: blaise.martay [at]

Megan Johnson
(EDF Energy)

Tel:   01392 813547
Email: megan.johnson [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2015-47

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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