Volunteers play an essential role within Observatree. They are critical citizen scientists and are integral to the project.

Specialist Observatree volunteers

Our essential network of UK-wide volunteers are recruited and managed by the Woodland Trust. Their main role is to:

  • Carry out a range of survey activities to help spot new pest and disease outbreaks.
  • Track the spread and impact of pests and diseases already established.
  • Complete Tree Alert reports and survey forms to a high standard, enabling scientists at Forest Research to reach a diagnosis.
  • Collect bark, soil or foliar samples if required by Forest Research.
  • Carry out targeted surveys in outbreak situations.

All volunteers are trained annually by Forest Research and Fera Science Ltd scientists. Training enables volunteers to correctly identify signs and symptoms of Observatree’s priority pests and diseases as well as carry out effective site surveys.

I just wanted to send a quick message to say thank you for the training day at Gibside. I was really impressed with the structure, thoroughness and general attentiveness of you and your colleagues. I really enjoyed the day and look forward to getting started!

Janie Caldbeck, Darlington
Tree Health Surveyor

Volunteer Successes

Observatree volunteers have had some great success stories over the years. These include:

  • Our volunteers have reported the occurrence of ash dieback for the first time in dozens of 10Km2 grid squares on the Defra Chalara distribution map (especially in Wales and Scotland), adding important information on the distribution of this disease.
  • Reported cases of important quarantine diseases sweet chestnut blight and Phytophthora ramorum.
  • Volunteers work with the authorities to monitor the oak processionary moth (OPM) situation in the UK. Volunteers have found OPM beyond its previously known range in south east England. Our volunteers also submit information of healthy oak trees, providing important baseline data for OPM monitoring.
  • In 2015 oriental chestnut gall wasp was found in the UK for the first time. After the first discovery in Kent, Observatree volunteers were asked to survey around their local areas to see if the pest was present elsewhere. One volunteer, Amanda, found the UK's second recording of the pest at a different location to the first. This changed the dynamics of the pest and how the authorities dealt with it. See the video below for more information on this finding.


Would you like to be an Observatree volunteer?

Being an Observatree volunteer involves conducting a minimum of 12 tree health surveys a year. We provide pest and disease identification training but ask that volunteers can identify common tree species at the time of application. We recruit on an annual basis, typically in the new year. Outside of this time we can add you to our waiting list for when recruitment opens. Please note, some years we only recruit from certain regions in the UK, this allows us to maintain good geographical coverage. Please email us to find out more.