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10.00 – 13.00, Wednesday 9th February 2022 (via Microsoft Teams)

Meeting chair: David Slawson (DS), Imperial College London

Local Organiser: Lucy Turner (LT), Forest Research, Alice Holt


Decisions and actions

THCSN Business

Actions/matters arising from September 2022 meeting

  • All were either discharged or were included on the agenda.


Tom Jenkins (Forest Research Wales) summarised development of the Network’s web pages now that they are hosted by Forest Research. Data on usage will be available in the future.

  • The aim is to make the pages useful to users by including information likely to be of most interest and value, including people, projects, resources and in future the “learning pathway” (see later).

Decision (D1) Approval was sought and obtained from members to post the summary of decisions and actions of our meetings on the webpages

 THCSN members were asked to assist by providing content (if not already done so) to Lucy Turner:

Action (A1) A brief (2-sentence “biog”) and photograph for the section See who is involved in the Tree Health Citizen Science Network. (All)

Action (A2) Brief information and a link to relevant projects and related resources (All)

Action (A3) Update the webpages within two weeks of the meeting (DS & LT)


  • Michael Pocock (CEH) reported that 60 members were registered on the THCSN JISCMail and that it is used actively for example to post information about meetings.

Future meetings

  • The next meeting (July 2022) is planned to be held face-to-face with the option for remote access via MS Teams
  • Jassy Drakulic (RHS) confirmed that RHS, although content to host future meetings at RHS Wisley, cannot host the July 2022 meeting at RHS Bridgwater

Action (A4) Members able to host the next meeting to contact DS. (All)

Action (A5) Invitations to future meetings to be sent as MS Calendar invites to known attendees (LT)

Priority actions update

Enhance the tree health surveillance network (DS and Peter Crow)

  • Observatree has “associate agreements” in place with: National Trust Scotland, Nature Scot, Association of Tree Officers, English Heritage and The Yorkshire Arboretum 
  • Active discussions are also in progress with The Tree Council, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Kew and the Royal Horticultural Society
  • Initial discussions have occurred with the Institute of Chartered Foresters and the Rotary Club

Action (A6) Discussions with interested organisations to continue (Peter Crow and DS)

Individual Tree Data Standard

No report but the standard is being used actively in the “Branching Out” project (see later).

Tree health citizen science ‘learning pathway’ (DS)

  • DS presented an update on progress with the learning pathway following previous feedback from THCSN members
  • Suggestions for improvement included: linearity of pathway is not realistic to normal engagement; greater “fluidity” – more routes into and beyond the current pinnacle of the pathway; under-estimation of informal learning from teacher parent or peer-to-peer; “softer” language – more “stewardship”/”championing” rather than fear of disease; people could also provide information of location of trees, and their general health; avoid impression of hierarchy/judgemental – everyone is making a difference; more obvious reconnection of tree health and biodiversity paths; need for biosecurity messaging
  • Jake Morris (Defra) stated that the pathway is intended to be an element of the future Plant Biosecurity Strategy with access to it from the THCSN website

Action (A7) Continue development of the learning pathway (DS)

Update from partners and projects

NERC “Future of UK Treescapes (Julie Urquhart, University of Gloucestershire and a Treescapes Ambassador) 

Action (A8) Interested THCSN members to check out the website, in particular Call 2 which is now open to applications. 

Branching Out (Alison Dyke, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York) 

Action (A9) THCSN members might be able to contribute to the three proposed Urban tree observatories (Alison Dyke)

Action (A10) The Urban Tree Observatories approach could be used by local authorities in development of their local tree and woodland strategies (Jake Morris)

BBSRC UK tree health research priorities (Debbie Harding, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC))

  • BBSRC hope shortly to revise their plant (including trees) health priorities, research needs, gaps etc.

Action (A11) THCSN to be alerted to any requests for information, ideas, opinions etc. (Debbie Harding)

  • Reference was also made to the Government’s POSTnote process in which important issues, including science, are presented in a concise and easy-to-understand way for MPs and policymakers 
  • A POSTnote is currently in draft on “Biosecurity – invasive non-native species” 

Action (A12) THCSN wishing to contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, should email Hazel Cooley (All)

Defra and policy developments (Jake Morris)

  • An update was provided on the new GB Plant Biosecurity Strategy, with emphasise given to elements relevant to Citizen Science, public engagement and behavioural change
  • A Government response to comments received in the consultation is due in March 2022 and the launch of the new strategy is planned for June 2022

Action (A13) THSCN to be kept appraised of developments by correspondence (Jake Morris)

UK risk register: updates and potential targets for Citizen Science (Charles Lane, Fera)

  • It was noted that citizen scientists have the potential to reach a wider geographical area and possibly visit areas (e.g. public parks and gardens) or survey hosts (e.g. willow, poplar) than are normally covered in official surveillance
  • An update was provided on the process for inclusions of new plant pests and diseases in the UK Plant Health Risk Register.
  • Focus was given to pests and diseases suitable for observation by members of the public because of their ease of identification, visibility from the ground and low risk of confusion with rare or endangered species etc.
  • The high-risk pests/diseases considered to be most for citizen science surveillance were:
    • Agrilus fleischeri – a wood boring beetle in the Buprestidae, which is a pest of poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix spp.). This pest was considered highly appropriate for surveillance by the public because the tree species and the sites where they grow (i.e. outside forests) are less likely to be subject to surveillance by officials
    • Phytophthora pluvialis – a fungal-like pathogen which affect Western hemlock and Douglas fir

Action (A14) THSCN to be kept appraised of new threats and “species/sites less likely to be subject to surveillance by officials” to be considered as a criterion for suitability of public surveillance (Charles Lane)

Observatree (Peter Crow, Forest Research)

  • Recent developments include:
    • A new website hosted by The Woodland Trust
    • 104 new volunteers have been recruited and are in the process of being trained (a heartening indication that the public are keen to engage with trees and tree pests and diseases)
    • Beech Leaf Disease will be added to the priority list for observation in 2022 (it is a new disease of Fagus in North America associated with a new nematode subspecies Litylenchus crenatae (L. crenatae mccannii))
    • A priority will be given to working more closely with the Tree Council and its network of tree wardens

RHS Citizen Science projects (Jassy Drakulic, RHS)

  • “Check a Sweet Chestnut”
    • In partnership with Coventry University and part of the HOMED Project
    • Uses Treezilla to record tree species, characteristics etc. and TreeAlert to report suspect sightings of oriental chestnut gall wasp
    • 99 registered users; 2022 season will be its last, for which a leaflet has been produced to attract new users (distributed to THCSN via JISCMail)
    • Successes and failures will be reviewed to produce a best practice toolkit for future projects
  • Although RHS have stopped accepting data for analysis, gardeners can continue to report sightings of the yellow cellar slug
  • Box tree moth had a record year in 2021; a distribution map is available on You-tube 

Tour d’table

  • Lucy Carson-Taylor (APHA): National Plant Health Week is 9-15 May 2022
  • Michael Pocock (CEH):
    • E-Surveyor, a free mobile app that helps farmers and landowners to monitor habitats, is being developed for trees
    • A NERC Sentinel treescapes project uses remote electronic sensors – “Tree talkers” – attached to measure various parameters associated with general ‘wellness’ of trees
    • Future plans to monitor long-term landscape-scale state and condition of trees
    • Focusing initially on butterflies, moths and grasshoppers, the DECIDE project has investigated ‘adaptive sampling in which recorders are guided where and when to make records, so that their records can optimally improve the species maps
  • Samantha Green (Coventry University): National Plant Collection Holders are invited to apply for up to £400 Bursary in 2022 (closing date 13 February 2022)
  • Jonathan Burton (Yorkshire Arboretum) announced that he is shortly taking up a new job with the Forestry Commission; his replacement should continue to input into the THCSN; Jonathan was thanked for the significant contribution he has made not only into the THCSN but to tree health in general

14 February 2022

 Dr David Slawson,

Coordinator THCSN

APPENDIX 1 Attendees

AlisonDykeStockholm Environment Institute, University of York
AndyGordonObservatree volunteer
AndyMoffatA J Moffat & Associates
DavidSlawsonImperial College London/Observatree volunteer
DebbieHardingUKRI BBSRC
FrithaWestObservatree, Woodland Trust
JaniceAnsineOpen University
JonathanBurtonThe Yorkshire Arboretum
JulieUrquhartUniversity of Gloucester and UK Future Treescapes
KateLewthwaiteWoodland Trust
KatharinaDehnen-SchmutzCoventry University
LucyCarson TaylorAPHA
LucyTurnerForest Research
MattElliottRBG Edinburgh
PaulGillObservatree volunteer
PeterCrowObservatree, Forest Research
RebeccaGoslingObservatree, Woodland Trust
SamanthaGreenCoventry University
TomJenkinsForest Research Wales
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