Citizens Get Their Green Thumbs Dirty For Research

The University of South Australia is trying to connect communities with their natural environments.

The Creating Biophilic Cities through Citizen Science is a five-year long and $1.5 million program which will see a new research unit at UniSA’s Barbara Hardy Institute conducting research, education and community engagement projects to create public awareness of environmental assets and issues and promote environmental stewardship.

Project leader, Philip Roetman, said public participation in research activities would increase community understanding of, and interaction with, local species and natural environments.

“Whether it is examining the changing populations of local or introduced plants or animals, or what the water quality is like in a local stream, this initiative is about stimulating community engagement, enabling people to connect to their natural environment in purposeful ways,” Mr Roetman said.

“Everyone can play a part: from outlining what concerns they have about their local environment, to collecting ecological data and sharing their own observations. New media and developing web and mobile-based technologies will further encourage community involvement. Projects will be designed to inform government planning and policy and results will be delivered back to the community for further education.”

Mr Roetman said partnerships were vital to the initiative and they were working with the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, ABC local radio, the CSIRO and local councils.

The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board regional manager Kym Good said they were always keen to work with the community and this was a successful way to let the community be heard.

The program will also involve a partnership with Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand to underpin research into the way people engage with nature.