Edinburgh Local

Open Our Estate: Green Communities

We want the green spaces on our estate and in our community to be biodiverse not only for the species that call them home, but for the benefit of humans too. Staff and students have had the opportunity to work with the local Edinburgh community to enhance access to green spaces, a core aim of Community Plan Commitment 32.

Image shows green space and foot bridge at Hailes Quarry Park, image credit Alexandra Kuklinski

In April 2022, the University's first ever Biodiversity Plan was launched. The plan is designed to protect and enhance green spaces on campus and in the wider community, for all who enjoy them. The plan enabled the development of the University’s “Green Communities” programme, an engagement framework that is fundamental to progressing biodiversity targets. Green Communities provides staff and students with opportunities to make the University estate greener and to participate in community projects in Edinburgh. 


Kicking off in July 2022, a new Green Communities project called, “How Biodiverse is Your Park” gave local people the opportunity to find, photograph and identify plants and animals in Hailes Quarry Park, Wester Hailes. The project invigorated and upskilled local residents of all age ranges to assess how diverse the park is with the help of two easy-to-use phone apps: iNaturalist, and a Green Infrastructure Mapping app developed by EDINA and the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh, in partnership with Scottish Wildlife Trust. 


By taking part in the project, local people had the opportunity to develop valuable digital and surveying skills, get to know their local area in a new way and contributed to the future of their green spaces. 


Biodiversity can seem an abstract idea – and one of the best ways to get to grips with it is come face to face with nature in your local park. Measuring biodiversity means identifying organisms and describing where they are, and this can also seem very challenging. We hope that the phone apps we are training ‘citizen scientists’ how to use in this project will make both of these steps accessible and fun for anyone with an interest in nature.

Professor Graham Stone, Professor of Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh 


Image shows the iNaturalist data overview of species mapped at Hailes Quarry Park


Image shows Grey Heron at Hailes Quarry Park

The main aim of the project was to develop new ways to engage the public with environmental science. This is to support them as leaders to advocate for future improvements to their park and beyond. Improvements could mean linking up different areas to help species move. Or boosting the quality of habitats to help nature thrive. 


To date, participants have mapped a total of 268 trees at the park, and observed 30 different species of plants, animals and fungi – including grey herons, eastern grey squirrels and creeping thistle. 


The project was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and will conclude in February 2023. "How Biodiverse is Your Park” involved partnership with SCORE Scotland, People Know How and the City of Edinburgh Council, and was led by Dr Elizabeth Vander Meer, Dr Kim Vender and Professor Graham Stone (University of Edinburgh). 


Green space is important for local communities because human health relies on ecological systems and species within them. Physical and psychological wellbeing has also been linked to contact with biodiversity or nature. Through further activities within Green Communities, the University will continue to enhance access to our estate for local residents. 


As a social innovation charity, People Know How is very excited to be working on this innovative project, growing roots in local communities by creating ‘Citizen Scientists’ amongst children and adults! Our children and young people’s service, Positive Transitions, supports young people to feel valued and understood so they can enjoy learning and discovering new talents and hobbies. 

Tanya Anderson, Development & External Relationship Manager, People Know How


Find out more: 

Community Plan: Learn more about our Community Plan 2020 - 2025.