Sandra Bell, Durham University
The race is on to develop time and cost effective inventory methods and techniques to assess the abundance, distribution and conservation status of species and habitat types in the UK and elsewhere, creating demands that far outstrip the capacity of professional scientists. Large numbers of volunteers naturalists are required if demands from policymakers and scientists are even to be partially met. Volunteer activities are organised through what are collectively termed participatory monitoring networks - PMNs (Bell et al 2008). These networks adopt a wide variety of forms including virtual network organisations, participatory eco-tourism, national NGOs and local, grass roots associations, all of which have specific characteristics and modes of operation. Despite these marked differences, studies identify a number of consistent themes relating to motivations, aspirations and knowledge acquisition among volunteers that are important to maintaining and developing PMNs in the UK.