NHM and Beyond Words reveal impact of COVID-19 in UK

Beyond Words Studio

The Natural History Museum has joined forces with data visualisation company Beyond Words Studio to reveal the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

NHM and Beyond Words Studio have illustrated some of the changes in the movement of people, air and noise pollution, and wildlife sightings in the UK.

The graphics, which draw on open source data and scientific databases, document the dramatic decline in driving and public transport use, the reduction in air pollution and noise levels, and the changes to sightings of animals and birds.

natural history museum beyond words

Beyond Words Studio

The release of the graphics is part of the NHM’s public engagement initiative ‘Nature in Lockdown’, which looks to crowdsource research ideas and discover the top three environmental impacts of COVID-19.

The project culminates in a live interactive virtual ‘Lates’ event on September 25, with participants able to asks researchers about the three topics.

NHM’s executive director of engagement, Clare Matterson, said the visualisations “bring to life some of the astonishing impacts lockdown has had on our environments and how we noticed and experienced nature in a new and different way”.

NHM public engagement initiative ‘Nature in Lockdown’

natural history museum beyond words

Beyond Words Studio

In the first 100 days of lockdown, nearly half a million wildlife sightings were submitted to wildlife spotting website iRecord, an increase of 54 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

As for cleaner air, the sky-high observatory on top of London’s BT Tower found that carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 60 percent during lockdown.

The reduction in noise was discovered by seismologists measuring the UK’s vibrations to monitor sound levels, who detected up to a 50 percent drop in the first three weeks of lockdown.

natural history museum beyond words

Beyond Words Studio

Across the UK, public transport journeys dropped by 82 percent in the first month of lockdown. Overall traffic hit its lowest point on April 12, with an 81 percent drop in driving and public transport.

Duncan Swain, partner and creative director of Beyond Words, said: “Data visualisation is a powerful tool for getting to the heart of what’s happening.

“Collaborating with the Natural History Museum and their partners gave us a unique opportunity to show just how powerful an effect the pandemic has had on the world around us.

“The results, I think, have opened our eyes to otherwise unseen consequences.”

Depicting the environmental impacts of COVID-19

natural history museum beyond words

Beyond Words Studio

Earlier this year, the trustees of the Natural History Museum appointed Amazon’s Dr Douglas Gurr as the museum’s new director, replacing Sir Michael Dixon.