Guest post: Track-a-Tree participation - a love of place?

Christine Tansey's picture

Earlier in the year Dr Ria Dunkley, from the University of Cardiff, wrote a guest post to invite Track a Tree recorders to participate in some interviews about their experiences taking part in the project. Many thanks to those of you who took up the chance to talk to her, I'm very happy to report that she is currently writing up her findings, and agreed to do another blog post to tell us more....

Track-a-Tree participation - a love of place? - Dr Ria Dunkley

I am a researcher, based at the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University. I'm interested in the experiences of people who contribute to citizen science projects. I am currently carrying out a research project that explores why people contribute to citizen science and what it means to them to do so. 

Between the months of January 2016 and March 2016, I visited 12 Track-a-Tree contributors across the UK. During the visits, I was immersed into the world of tracking trees! I visited people from Hampshire, Essex, Kent, to Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Scotland.


Contributors and I visited their woodlands. Usually, we had a cup of tea and a conversation afterward. Then, we discussed what being a ‘Track-a-tree-er’ meant to them in their everyday lives, and why they’d got involved in the first place. Some fascinating narratives are emerging from those conversations. Meanwhile, a happy by-product of the process was the gratitude I felt for the kindness I experienced. From a contributor who made me lentil soup in Hebden Bridge to another who shared wonderful photographs (and cake!) in Scotland, and yet another who shared with me a bag of apples for one long train journey home from Kent.


On my return to Cardiff, all interviews needed to be transcribed verbatim. I then use an analysis technique that I love called (wait for it!) ‘Poetic-structure narrative analysis’ to identifying themes emerging from the interview transcripts. This analysis approach was pioneered by Paul Gee (1999) and was developed on the basis that all speech is a form of poetry. The approach enables me to pay close attention to the linguistic choices and poetic styles that participants use to tell their stories of participation. In doing so, I try to ensure that I do not impose my own views on the narratives too heavily. Instead, the approach focuses me on listening to how things are said, as well as to what is said. 

I recently presented some of the emergent findings of my study at the First European Citizen Science Conference in Berlin. I summarised nine main motivations and seven major impacts of Track-a-Tree participation in a poster and talk. One of the main propositions that I had for the conference audience was that 'topophilia' could be a stronger driver of (environmental) citizen science than previously thought. Topophilia was defined by Tuan (1985) as a connection to a place and deep love of that place. Both visiting woodlands with participants and listening back to our conversations, revealed that love of place might just be one of the key motivations for those I spoke too.


Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part in my research to date! I am still looking for people to interview, especially now the sun is shining. It would be an opportunity to see the woods in a different light! So, if you would be happy to give up an hour or so of your time for a conversation, please get in touch!

Contact details:

Ria Dunkley (Research Associate)

Sustainable Places Research Institute

Cardiff University,

33 Park Place,




Tel: 029 208 75726




Tuan, Y. F. (1974). Topophilia. Englewood Cliffs (NJ), Prentice-Hall.

Wals, A. E., Brody, M., Dillon, J., & Stevenson, R. B. (2014). Convergence between science and environmental education. Science, 344(6184), 583-584.