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Green theme for Otago 2018 projects

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Eight community-led science projects in both rural and urban parts of Otago have been funded for 2018 through the Participatory Science Platform.

The latest batch of projects have a strong environmental focus, from emission-free cars to tuna kaitiakitanga (eel guardianship) to ridding islands of pests.

“It’s been great to see the quality of proposals continue to improve," says Craig Grant at Otago Museum, the programme coordinator for the Otago Participatory Science Platform (PSP).

"This year we get to welcome a bunch of new projects from new parts of Otago, as well as being able to support the extension of a number of existing teams to delve deeper into some of the insights they generated last year.” 

The projects have been awarded up to $20,000 to help them investigate and solve local problems and community-identified issues over the next 12 months.

Otago is one of three regions where the PSP programme is operating, and this is the sixth round of funding since it launched in 2015.

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. The funded projects allow locals to work alongside scientists and technology experts on questions or problems that are relevant to them and have enduring educational value.

Project details:

  • Citizen Science checking Corporate Specs - Researching Real-life Performance of Electric Vehicles in Otago. Electric vehicle owners are working with scientists and statisticians to investigate their discovery last year that some newer electric vehicles are losing their battery's charge holding capacity faster than expected, a potential game-changer that recently drew attention from Seven Sharp (external link) .

  • If we build it, will Peripatus come? Dunedin's primary school students are joining forces with scientists to see what things in urban greenspaces make good homes for the vulnerable velvet worm (Peripatus), and how to then create Peripatus-friendly areas at school.

  • Predator Control and Biodiversity Monitoring on Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua. The project team will build on previous work on Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua, drawing on groups from throughout the community to investigate questions such as 'why are there no pest carcasses being found around the automatic traps that were installed last year?'.

  • Open VUE (Valley Urban Ecosanctuary) - Kapuka Taumahaka Whakamaurutanga. This project's team will create a low-predator urban environment to help native species thrive, and then share it with others through an education programme for local schools and the wider community. This builds on their success last year by widening the community involved, and expanding the monitoring to include monitoring invertebrates and lizards as well as birds and predators.

  • Down the Drain - Community management and the science of storm water mitigation and ecosystem restoration. School students and experts in Wanaka will expand their citizen lake monitoring project to include a new investigation into the effects of stormwater pollution on Lake Wanaka's water quality and how they can try to reduce it.

  • Investigating native plant-fungi symbiosis. Participants will identify species of beneficial fungi that can help native plant species recover. They will also investigate practical techniques of re-establishing native vegetation sanctuaries in the Central Otago drylands, which community members can carry out at home, on the farm or in parks.

  • Ka Hao te Rakatahi - Using traditional and modern capture methods to monitor tuna/eel populations at a mahinga kai site: Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau/Sinclair Wetlands. Kāi Tahu rakatahi (young people) will learn how to monitor tuna (eel) numbers so that they can act as Kaitiaki (guardians) of the mahinga kai (food harvesting) resources of Te Nohoaka o Tukiauau. The project team will also estimate the numbers and age distributions of longfin and shortfin tuna, and compare modern tuna capture methods with traditional.

  • Source to Sea - Understanding the health of our catchment. Students from semi-rural schools will work with researchers to investigate how land use, water quality and biodiversity conservation can simultaneously contribute to the overall health of a catchment, rather than focussing on a single issue in one area. The project team will also try to identify the 'tipping point' at which a catchment suddenly becomes unhealthy (or healthy) when there are changes in these contributors.

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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