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From fruit to frogs: Taranaki's 2018 projects revealed

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Eight local science and technology community projects have been funded through the Participatory Science Platform in Taranaki, bringing the total to over 30 for the region.

This year’s projects focus on improving local knowledge of soil, sea life, wetland health, wireless connectivity, marine litter, pepeketua (native frog) populations, kororā (little blue penguin) monitoring, and how domestic cat behaviour might affect endangered species.

“These projects team local community groups with specialist science and technology professionals, showing the power of collaboration, and all of this year’s projects also partner with local schools,” says Josh Richardson at Venture Taranaki, who is the programme coordinator for the Taranaki Participatory Science Platform (PSP).

“This has enabled a significant contribution to science, and helps more and more people from across our community to understand their local habitat, collect data in areas where there is no existing information, and tackle issues that are important to them.”

Taranaki is one of three regions where the PSP programme is operating, and this is the fourth round of funding since it launched in 2015. The total investment in community science projects for Taranaki is now over $500,000.

The Participatory Science Platform is part of the Curious Minds suite of programmes and invests in innovative projects that encourage communities to embrace science and technology.

There is still a limited amount of funding available for the Taranaki PSP. If you have an idea for a local science or technology research project, find out how to apply for funding by contacting Josh on 06 759 5158 or josh@venture.org.nz.

Project details:

  • Midhirst School wants to develop an organic orchard as a teaching/learning tool (Science, Food Technology, Health etc). Students will be undertaking soil testing, before trialling a range of different soil treatments to see what produces the best soil for growing fruit trees suited to the Midhirst climate. Given that Midhirst School largely draws its pupils from a farming community, there is also interest from students' families.

  • Te Atiawa Iwi Charitable Trust is bringing together a range of hapū, marae, kura, schools, and community groups to investigate the connectivity of taonga species inside and outside Tapuae Marine Reserve and Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area (SLIMPA), as well as seafloor structures further offshore.

  • East Taranaki Environment Trust are extending the reach of their successful Bug ALERT! project to include Egmont Village, and Ratapiko schools. The students will be using data previously collected by Kaimata School and will develop and expand on this information. The students will be working with scientists to investigate whether or not the increase in wetland vegetation at Purangi has led to an increase in invertebrate biodiversity and abundance. This will provide authentic learning for them, plus provide the opportunity for the schools to mentor the ones following on.

  • Massey University in collaboration with PrimoWireless will expand on their previous project by educating and training students on the methods used to analyse the quality of wireless connectivity (signal strength and interference) at a given location. Students will then analyse wireless connectivity around the given location and develop a plan to improve the quality of the network, then be guided to apply what they have learnt to the bigger question of solving region-wide connectivity issues in Taranaki.

  • Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Mutunga are leading an investigation into the whereabouts, the type and the number of frogs that can be found in North Taranaki. Schools and community members will gather information on existing frog habitats, then undertake frog call surveys and install acoustic devices to digitally record the frogs. The team will also be looking for rare native frogs in the Parininihi Forest.

  • MAIN Trust NZ are working with Welbourn School and numerous communities to question how domestic cats are interacting with sensitive natural areas and will investigate ways of altering cat behaviour to allow positive outcomes for pet cat welfare and endangered species conservation.

  • Ngā Motu Marine Reserve Society are seeking to improve our knowledge on little blue penguin (kororā) nesting behaviour in Taranaki. The ‘Finding Little Blue’ project team will be working with Puketapu and Devon Intermediate Schools to map existing burrow locations and design methods for monitoring the penguins throughout the year.

  • Highlands Intermediate School want to gather more information on the types and origins of litter found along the Taranaki coastline. The students will work with the Taranaki Regional Council and MetOcean Solutions to carry out a series of litter surveys at the Tapuae Marine Reserve, and then use oceanographic modelling to understand where these items may have come from.

Scientists and locals collaborating around a table

Participatory Science Platform

The Participatory Science Platform supports collaborative projects that bring together communities and scientists or technologists on research investigating a locally-important question or problem.

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