Catherine Wilson

Loughborough University


Children’s Citizen Science and the Natural Environment: Motivations, Experiences and Outcomes


  • Dr Sarah Mills
  • Professor Paul Wood

PhD Summary

My project focuses on the role of volunteering specifically in the sphere of citizen science which is the engagement of the public in all or some aspects of the scientific research process. Some well-known citizen science programs here in the United Kingdom include the Big Butterfly Count or BeeWatch. In particular, I am interested in citizen science programs which recruit children and what the motivations, experiences and outcomes are of those children who participate in citizen science projects.

Previous activity

Prior to my PhD, I studied BSc Zoology at the University of Exeter and as part of my dissertation I spent some time in Borneo looking at the distribution of Bornean orangutan nests in a mosaic habitat. This inspired me to do a masters (MSc) in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes in which my research project focused on the development and use of environmental education resources for schools.

Why did you choose doctoral research?

I decided to undertake doctoral research as it provides me with the opportunity and time to partake in the research of a topic that highly interests me and allows me to express my creativity and individual thought. Connecting people, especially children, to nature is very important to me and the objectives of the PhD I am undertaking closely align with my values and beliefs about fostering positive attitudes towards the environment in young people. My journey in doctoral research is my first step towards an academic career and will provide me with the skills I will need for academia in the future.


Why did you choose CENTA?

I was first drawn to CENTA because of the diversity of PhD projects it advertised – particularly the nature of the project I am now undertaking. After further exploring opportunities provided by CENTA, I realised the support their studentships provided went beyond what I had expected. As well as giving financial support they provide a variety of training opportunities and allow their students the chance to undertake a placement all of which are important to my growth as a researcher.

Future plans

I am hoping that my PhD at Loughborough University will lead to a post-doc and a career in research. The opportunities provided by the University and CENTA are going to be a great assistance for my professional development and provide me with skills I can use in my future career.