In 2020–2023 the Literature Centre is a partner in the European Union research project „Citizen Science for Environmental Citizenship: Backyard Birding and the Potential for Cultivating Green Engagement“ – „EnviroCitizen“, in short. The project, led by the University of Stavanger, explores how a person can grow into an environmentally aware citizen.



What does local bird watching tell us about climate change and climate and environmental values?  The project where such a research question was raised received a three year support in the EU Horizon 2020 programme to further study the so-called green citizen science. Seven partners from European research institutions are included in the project that examines how activities related to bird watching and counting help to increase environmental awareness and instill an environmentally sustainable way of thinking.

According to project leader Finn Arne Jørgensen, the annual pan-European backyard bird counting is one of those events that encourages people to record all the bird species they see in their garden on one weekend a year. This type of research, called citizen science, has in its way become a standard model for the implementation of research projects. In them ordinary people help scientists in the data collection process.

Importance of environmental humanities is on the rise

Finn Arne Jørgensen is a professor of environmental history at the University of Stavanger and, together with Professor Dolly Jørgensen from the same university, leads a working group of leading European scientists in environmental humanities called The Greenhouse. Until now, climate and environmental science has been the preserve of the natural sciences, but it is becoming increasingly clear that research in the humanities is helping to contribute to a better understanding of these issues.

As it seeks solutions to problems related to the environment and climate, environmental humanities combines theories and methods from various research areas and disciplines. It is an up-and-coming research field. In this project, researchers from Sweden, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Cyprus and Estonia are partners of the University of Stavanger.

Elle-Mari Talivee, senior researcher at the Literature Centre and the main executor of the 'EnviroCitizen' project in Estonia, with a garden bird presented to Friedebert Tuglas in 1966 (sculptor Ellinor Piipuu).

The project runs from 1 April 2020 to the end of 2023, cooperating also with the ornithological societies of the partner countries. Under the leadership of senior researcher Ulrike Plath, the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences has already been involved in the study of environmental humanities for several years. The centre is represented in the project by Elle-Mari Talivee, whose research topics have brought together literature, the environment and ornithology; who is also a board member of the Estonian Ornithological Society/Birdlife Estonia.

„The project has a great name in English“, finds Elle-Mari Talivee. „I really wish I could translate it into Estonian as ’rohekodanik’ (green citizen), but it would probably sound like an alien from outer space. On the other hand, a way of life that takes into account the environment is, after all, a topic for people who look to the future, and perhaps this is something that these words convey. Had the coronavirus not closed down the world for a while, we would have discussed all these issues in Stavanger at the beginning of April and also visited the birdwatching towers there; now we’ve had to limit ourselves to online discussions. The backdrop to these conversations has been the Tuglas Garden, which opens from a window at my currently rather a lonely desk, and about which I keep a garden bird diary. Indeed, this is what citizen science is about.”

Impact on environmental awareness

While many projects using citizen-assisted research focus on the breadth and quality of the scientific results obtained, this project aims to explore the impact citizen science has on people’s environmental awareness.

The project team is developing a multilingual educational programme to be implemented in schools and at public events of the partner countries in order to popularise participation in the already existing bird counting activities in a way that also facilitates engagement as an environmentally aware member of society. The programme is based on environmental research from the perspective of humanities and social sciences.

„Birds are found all over Europe. Everyone has some connection with them. In this project, we use the birds of our locality to talk about environmental changes and values,“ says project manager Finn Arne Jørgensen.

Project events


On 30 June 2023, the interdisciplinary closing conference of the Horizon 2020 project „Citizen Science for Environmental Citizenship: Backyard Birding and the Potential for Cultivating Green Engagement“ (EnviroCitizen) was held in Brussels…

At the traditional garden seminar held on 15 June 2023 in the museum garden, we looked at approaches to literature and art based on the concept of the more-than-human-world, but also talked about birdwatchers and their journey to environmental awareness

On 20 March 2023 Elle-Mari Talivee, freelance graphic designer and researcher Maria Muuk and the humanities and arts consultant Rene Mäe from the National Library visited the Viimsi Library to reflect on how education and birdwatching, environmental conservation and literature, the art of printing and sustainability connect…

On 13–15 February 2023, the project writing retreat was held in Uppsala, Sweden…

On 30 September 2022, a science luncheon „Birds, Poetry and Science“ was held as part of the Researchers’ Night festival…

On 12–14 September 2022, the project writing retreat was held in Nijmegen, Netherlands…

On 25–26 June 2022, Birdlife Estonia held a summer outing at Ravila Manor in Harju County. The programme included presentations on the research projects currently underway…

EnviroCitizen project was presented at the Nordic Geographers’ Conference. On 19–22 June 2022, the 9th Nordic Geographers’ Conference (NGM) was held in Joensuu, North Karelia

Excerpts from the project blog

Birds and the war by Elle-Mari Talivee, May 2022. On this year’s Walpurgis Night I participated for the first time in a citizen science project of counting the Eurasian woodcocks in Estonia…

EnviroCitizen does EuroBirdwatch by Wessel Ganzevoort, Elin Lundquist, Elle-Mari Talivee and Ágota Ábrán, October 2021. EuroBirdwatch, which took place this year on the 2nd and 3rd of October…

An Estonian Summer Interlude by Elle-Mari Talivee, August 2021. A scouting trip to the ringing stations in Lithuania and Latvia…

How birds of the world get their Estonian names by Elle-Mari Talivee, May 2021. The purpose of this committee is to give each of the 11000 bird species in the world an Estonian name…

Mid-January Waterbirds by Elle-Mari Talivee, November 2020. My favourite time for bird counting is in the middle of winter by the seaside…


The design includes a yellowhammer from the classification guide of the Estonian Ornithological Society (drawn by Mike Langman, and a golden bird from Estonian poet and graphic artist Arno Vihalemm`s series of linocuts, ‘Four-legged ones and birds’, from the collection of the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.

Virtual exhibition Birds in the archive and museum
In 2021, as part of the 100th anniversary of the Estonian Ornithological Society (Birdlife Estonia), we began to compile a reflection on how birds have flown from the natural environment into the collections of memory and research institutions.

To the exhibition

The exhibition is supported by a virtual tour on the museum page of the Literature Center – all garden birds should be found there too!

Articles related to the project in Estonian

Talivee, Elle-Mari (2023). Looduskultuuri mur(d)epunkte. Meie antropotseen. Keel ja Kirjandus, 66 (3), 267−285. DOI: 10.54013/kk783a1.

Talivee, Elle-Mari (2023). Naised uurisid lilli, liblikaid ja linde. Vikerkaar, 6, 58−70.

Plath, Ulrike; Elle-Mari Talivee; Kadri Tüür (Toim.) (2022). Plath, Ulrike; Talivee, Elle-Mari; Tüür, Kadri. Keskkondluse erinumber. Methis Tartu. DOI: 10.7592/methis.v24i30.

Plath, Ulrike; Talivee, Elle-Mari; Tüür, Kadri; Annist, Aet (2022). Loodusmõttest aktivismini: Saateks keskkondluse erinumbrile. Methis Studia humaniora Estonica, 30, 5−23. DOI: 10.7592/methis.v24i30.22100.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 872557.