Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

NestWacht - Citizen Science research with schools and communities on the impact of climate change and urban pollution on birds and their breeding cycle

The NestWacht project is a Citizen Science collaboration between Science Centre Delft, Naturalis, and the Citizen Science Lab of Leiden University to engage individuals, families and primary schools in Leiden and Delft in scientific research on the impact of climate change on nature in their city, and specifically on the nesting and breeding behaviour of common birds. By researching the impact of climate on bird life together with school-aged children and residents, we aim to increase public participation in scientific research and bring science closer to the residents and schools of Delft and Leiden.

2022 - 2023
Margaret Gold

Science Centre Delft, TU Delft, Naturalis

NestWacht is one of the activities of the European City of Science Leiden 2022, using this unique event and platform as a launch pad to reach widely to local individuals, families and schools.. The Citizen Science Lab's ambition, through the NestWacht project, is to support deeper participation in scientific research not only within the city limits of Leiden, but also beyond - with paths to participation for anyone interested in nature, the impacts of climate change, or 'tinkering' with sensors. The partners combine their expertise in the fields of technological innovation (TU Delft), ecology and nature (Naturalis Biodiversity Center), environment (TU Delft Climate Institute), developing training and teaching materials (Wetenschapsknooppunten, Naturalis, Leiden University) and Citizen Science (Citizen Science Lab / Science Centre Delft), in a highly innovative approach to science communication, educational innovation, and citizen science. 

During this citizen science project, data will be collected by residents using nest boxes with built-in climate sensor stations. The research has two main directions: 1) biology (biotic factors): the life-cycle of the birds in the nest boxes and their ecological interactions recorded by infrared cameras and observations, the area of expertise of Naturalis, and 2) climate (abiotic factors): measurements around the climate and weather conditions, measured using a sensor station, expertise of the TU Delft Climate Institute. These measurements will take place over several years to map changes in climate factors, nesting behaviour and nesting material. The measuring boxes and thus the data collection will be managed by school classes (groups 7/8) and local residents. This first year, the aim is to start with 25 measuring boxes, already under development at Science Centre Delft, distributed over Delft and Leiden.

To make the progress of the research and data collection open and accessible to participants and the wider public, the www.nestwacht.nl website has been set up, and will be integrated with a data platform so the collected data and results can be viewed by anyone interested.

Coherent communication and education materials will also be developed for all research goals, aimed at both individual participants (and families) and participating primary schools.

The (scientific) research objectives here are:

  • Monitoring (qualitatively and quantitatively) the development of the process of nesting (and nesting materials used in the process), hatching of eggs and growing up of young (garden) birds, using an infrared camera.
  • Registration (quantitative) of the physical conditions of incubation in and around the nest box, by recording weather/climate parameters with digital sensors (temperature inside and outside the nest box, humidity, air pressure and fine dust concentration).
  • Mapping how these climatic factors potentially affect nesting, breeding and rearing of the (young) birds.



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