Research & Evaluation

The Natural History Consortium is a unique partnership working in areas of media, conservation, policy and research to engage people with the natural world.

As part of our work we ingrain research and evaluation within our programmes to help inform our own work and provide resources to share our learning with the sector. We undertake a programme of collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects exploring people’s engagement with the natural world and are available to participate in partnership projects – please get in touch.

In this section you can explore some of our current live research and look back at past findings.

Future Parks Research

The Natural History Consortium is working with Bristol City Council and partners to secure the future of Bristol’s urban parks and green spaces through a unique new national initiative.

Future Parks is a joint venture between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Trust. There is also additional funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in England. Eight urban areas,across the UK are joining forces in a pioneering programme designed to find ways to manage and fund parks and open spaces across entire towns and cities.


Science Festivals Research

The Natural History Consortium delivers the annual Festival of Nature across Bristol and Bath, showcasing tried and tested content and piloting new ideas and formats for engaging people with the natural world. We build evaluation into the core of our programmes and collaborate with our academic partners, as well as other science communicators and festivals regionally, nationally and internationally to research the social and environmental impact of science festivals.

UK Science Festivals Network

We are active members of the UK Science Festivals Network, coming together with our fellow festivals from all over the UK to celebrate and advance a diverse and exciting science festival landscape. Working with UKSFN delivered a series of piloting, evaluation and development projects including:

  • UKRI/UKSFN Bringing young people and researchers together – facilitating the engagement of 11-17 year olds from low socioeconomic backgrounds with research by bringing them together with active researchers at our annual Communicate+ youth led conference.
  • BEIS/UKSFN Grand Challenges – developing and testing a programme of public activity incorporating The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges
Science Festivals Alliance

As part of the EvalFest programme, we are working with fellow science festivals in the United States to develop a toolkit improving the environmental performance of our events, balancing the environmental impacts of large events with the positive environmental outcomes from education, engagement and behaviour change.

We have identified 4 key principles for improving your festival’s environmental performance and look forward to sharing our findings.

  • TAKE LESS – reduce your festival’s consumption footprint
  • CHOOSE BETTER – opt for more sustainable alternatives
  • DEMAND MORE – from your stakeholders using your festival’s position as a convening platform
  • GIVE BACK – to nature through direct action, gifting time, cash or space for nature


FUTURES x Instagram

In October and November 2020, University of Bath and NHC collaborated on FUTURES x Instagram as part of FUTURES2020. The project was designed to experiment with social media platform Instagram as a tool to engage people with environmental science and brought together environmental science researchers with UK-based Influencers to co-create original content for Instagram.

The mixed cohort of 15 researchers and 10 Instagrammers were tasked with creating content to engage users of this platform with research, build capacity for digital engagement for researchers and experiment with the Instagram platform to convene digital discussions to increase dialogue around environmental science with an often-overlooked pubic group. Check out the hashtag #FUTURES2020 to see what was created!



Bultitude, Karen & McDonald, Dominic & Custead, Savita. (2011). The Rise and Rise of Science Festivals: An international review of organised events to celebrate science. International Journal of Science Education. Part B.

BioBlitz Research

As part of the NHC’s work facilitating the National BioBlitz Network in the UK, we have supported a number of MSc research projects using BioBlitz as a case study as well as conducting our own research and evaluation of BioBlitz and related formats for public engagement in biological recording.

European Citizen Science Association

We cochair the ECSA BioBlitz Working Group, connecting people, communities, and organisations involved and interested in the organisation of BioBlitz events, to facilitate the sharing of good practice and to build capacity for this type of event across Europe.


We are members of the Advisory Group for the LEARN CitSci project, an international partnership bringing together citizen science practitioners and educational researchers from six organisations in the UK and the US. Together we are studying what impact citizen science projects have on the young people that take part in them.

Matthew Postles & Madeleine Bartlett (2018) The rise of BioBlitz: Evaluating a popular event format for public engagement and wildlife recording in the United Kingdom, Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 17:4, 365-379, DOI: 10.1080/1533015X.2018.1427010

Communicate Research

Engaging People with Biodiversity Issues
Engaging People in Biodiversity Issues Resource

Engaging People in Biodiversity Issues Resource

The Natural History Consortium worked with Defra, the People Engagement Group and Simon Christmas Ltd on a project to enable the environmental engagement sector to make best use of the latest evidence in the Defra commissioned report Engaging People in Biodiversity Issues, and to gain further insights into how the sector could be supported to further build its capacity to develop effective approaches to biodiversity engagement.

The project included a series of workshops, sessions at Communicate 2013: Stories for Change, and the production of an online resource developing the recommendations of the research report. The final project report collated a number of insights from the project as to how further initiatives could support capacity building within the sector.


Chapter contribution to Whitmarsh, O’Neil & Lorenzini (2011), Engaging the Public with Climate Change: Behaviour Change and Communication.

What Next For Nature?


In 2019/20 NHC delivered a series of ‘Distributed Dialogue’ activites as part of an innovative programme of citizen engagement across England to improve understanding of what people value in the environment and their priorities for it.  The project was funded by Defra and led by NatCen in partnership with six other specialist organisations generated several options for taking public attitudes, values and priorities into account in environmental policy and decision-making at a range of spatial scales.