The Craigiebuckler Biodiversity Action Plan (2017 to 2020) forms the basis of the planning prioritisation and management of the unique green space surrounding the James Hutton Institute’s Aberdeen site. Operationally, it is guiding on-the-ground actions contributing to the maintenance and enhancement of the estate for the local community and staff. From summer 2018, these actions have focused on the removal and replanting of the tree stock (e.g. where affected by disease), the removal of invasive species such as ivy, and the restoration of access paths for both the safety and ease of use of staff and local residents. The combined efforts are
A series of high-profile events designed to engage staff and the local community has significantly improved connections between the Institute and key stakeholder groups. In addition to members of the local community, attendance has included two serving Ministers in the Scottish Government, three MSPs who came with their families, nine councillors from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, and numerous representatives from various NGOs.
Members of the local community have expressed appreciation of the opportunities to learn and enjoy the Craigiebuckler estate. For example, one attendee at the BioBlitz (July 2017) which attracted over 300 people sent the following note:
“Just a quick email to say congratulations on a great event today. My 8 yr old daughter & I had an absolutely brilliant time & it's been the highlight of the summer holidays so far! There was so much to do, lots of interesting enthusiastic experts to speak to & learn from with the only downside being not quite enough time to see everything.... & we were there at 11am! Thanks so much & I hope that you'll be holding other similar events soon. (& if you have a mailing list please could you add me to it).”
The capability and knowledge of staff has been increased through hosting events such as the Autumn Watch (Sept. 2018). This involved over 110 local residents and staff participating in a week-long series of activities including Fungal Forays, bat counting at Couper’s Pond, moth trapping and identification, and a family quiz evening. In-depth sessions included an event providing guidance on the use of camera traps at which camera trap boxes were purchased by attendees, and training provided on their installation and use. This provided new information on wildlife on the estate (e.g. at least one badger), and video materials for use in promoting debate about threats to urban wildlife. It has also stimulated the use of a camera trap at a local nature reserve with the support of the local managers.
More generally, the activities of the Action Plan are raising the reputation of the estate amongst the local community, helping to show that the Institute ‘walks the talk’ on biodiversity, whilst also conducting leading-edge research. This was exemplified by the launch of the film The Wild North East, Scotland’s Natural Gem (April 2018), watched by almost 100,000 online and attracting attendance of over 150 people to Craigiebuckler.