Imperial College London

Imperial project OPAL honoured in the Defra Team Awards 2013


Receiving the award (left to right): Roger Fradera (Imperial), Poppy Lakeman Fraser (Imperial), David Slawson (Fera), and Sir Bob Kerslake (Head of the Home Civil Service)

A unique partnership has won the Civil Service Reform Award at the Defra Team Awards 2013.

A unique partnership involving Imperial College London, academics, Government, and a wide range of third sector and private organisations has won the Civil Service Reform Award at the Defra Team Awards 2013.

The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Tree Health Survey engaged the public to act as extra eyes for pests and diseases which are threatening our trees, thereby supporting official surveillance by the limited number of official forestry and plant health inspectors.

Officials will now be alerted immediately of any suspect sightings of those pests and disease which pose the greatest threat to the country, which should give us the best possible chance of eradicating the pest or disease before it becomes established.

Roger Fradera, OPAL Portfolio Manager said: “We felt really honoured just to be nominated for the Civil Service Reform Award at the Defra Team Awards; to win was well beyond our expectations but it is a real credit to everyone that was involved in the OPAL Tree Health Survey. That includes our partners who helped us develop the survey, the Food & Environment Research Agency and Forest Research, various experts from organisations passionate about trees, all the OPAL staff across our network, and, in particular, the members of the public who gave up their time to carry out the survey, spotting invasive pests and diseases that are such a threat to our natural heritage. One of OPAL’s objectives is to bring statutory, voluntary and community sectors into closer working relationships and the OPAL Tree Health Survey proved a perfect example of what can be achieved when all parts of society work together.”

The award was announced at a ceremony at Nobel House on 23rd January 2014 and was presented by Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Home Civil Service. David Slawson, who led the project for FERA, said: “Hearing Sir Bob Kerslake’s comments about the importance of Civil Service reform and of his earlier briefing to the Prime Minister no less, really brought home the significance of winning the Civil Service Reform award with the OPAL tree health survey. In addition to Fera and the OPAL team at  Imperial College, huge credit is due to all the other partners, including Forest Research, Forestry Commission, Welsh Government, Natural History Museum, Field Studies Council, various universities, Woodland Trust, National Trust, Tree Council and many more.”

Zen Makuch, Head of Department and Director of the Centre for Environmental Policy, said: “It is a real pleasure that our Department here at Imperial and the home of the OPAL Project has been honoured with this award.  UK-based threats to the nation’s woodlands are a major contemporary challenge on Defra’s policy agenda. Ash dieback and sudden oak death rank serve as relevant highly destructive examples. The beauty of our OPAL Tree Health Survey and related research is that it draws a lesson in thinking locally and acting globally. Bottom up participation of a budding nation of citizen scientists bodes well in our comprehensive efforts to protect nature and our wider environmental world.”


Mr Fradera

Mr Fradera
Centre for Environmental Policy

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