THOUSANDS of children boosted their knowledge of native wildlife by taking part in a university-led project.

Motion-sensing cameras were placed at 42 primary schools across the North-East for a month to capture images of wildlife for the MammalWeb citizen science scheme.

More than 3,000 school children, as well as community volunteers, then helped identify the wildlife photographed.

In total, 2,000 photo sequences were captured and 13,000 identifications submitted.

Durham University researchers who were behind the initiative have now revealed that the youngsters who took part were able to name twice as many UK wild mammals by the end of the project.

The schools also received either a workshop for pupils or a training session for teachers where they learned about UK mammals and practised identifying them.

At the start and the end of the project, the children completed questionnaires which included them listing all the mammals they know that live in the UK.

Before the project, the pupils were able to name on average three wild UK mammals.

Afterwards, the average had doubled to six.

Beforehand, most pupils were able to name more domestic animals than wild animals and a quarter of pupils named zoo animals such as lions believing they were UK mammals.

After taking part in the project, many were better able to distinguish between native and introduced species.

And more named of the children animals to species level rather than group, for instance grey squirrel instead of squirrel.

Teachers’ knowledge of UK mammals also increased, and many reported feeling inspired to include more outdoor learning in their school.

Some schools involved even went on to buy their own cameras or to use their experience to gain funding for further environmental initiatives.

Samantha Mason, a PhD student at Durham University, said: “The increase in children’s knowledge of mammals after taking part in the MammalWeb project was very striking, and is very encouraging.

“MammalWeb has helped us understand better how common or rare wild mammals are in the North East of England and increased children’s knowledge of and connection to nature, which we know has many physical and mental health benefits.”

Helen Wilkinson, the science lead teacher at Grange First School in Newcastle, said: “We raised some money and bought a motion-sensing camera ourselves, so the MammalWeb project has certainly helped start a new tradition and engagement with the outdoors at Grange.”

MammalWeb is run by participants from Durham University, Durham Wildlife Trust and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Samantha Mason and her colleagues now hope to work with the British Ecological Society to roll out the MammalWeb in schools project more widely across the UK.

To find out more about MammalWeb visit the website