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Six more Taranaki community science projects to launch

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Six new Participatory Science Platform projects in Taranaki have been given the green light for 2019.

The latest batch of projects in Taranaki have a strong environmental thread, from measuring estuary health to sustainably powering electric vehicles.

“This year’s projects span a diverse and interesting mix of scientific disciplines including estuarine ecology, hydrology, soil science, conservation science, and renewable energy engineering,” says programme coordinator Josh Richardson at Venture Taranaki.

“What is really heartening is the prevalence of projects focused on our environment and testing ways in which technology could help us better protect it.”

Projects are conceived, developed and proposed by the communities who will undertake them, usually driven by challenges or problems those communities see around them. The Taranaki Participatory Science Platform (PSP) then matches these groups with scientific or technical experts to help them progress the project.

“A fantastic example of this is the project by Ngamatapouri School, which is located 43km up the Waitotara Valley," Josh says. "The school, of just eight students, is tackling the risk of flooding in the valley through using technology to develop flood warning systems. This will help their community better prepare for when the Waitotara River level rises to dangerous levels - which is frequently.”

Taranaki is one of three regions where the Participatory Science Platform has been operating since 2015, with a total of 40 projects funded to date. This initiative is part of the Curious Minds suite of programmes and invests in innovative projects that encourage communities to embrace science and technology.

Project details:

Te Āhua o ngā Kūrei - Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Mutunga
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Mutunga will carry out a comprehensive assessment in the Urenui and Mimitangiatua estuaries, with the aim of measuring the current health of these estuaries. The project will identify current and future threats that may impact on the health of these important coastal areas. Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Mutunga are doing this work with support from the Taranaki Regional Council and the Clifton Community Board and will be working with students from Uruti, Mimi and Urenui Schools.

Ngamatapouri School Waitotara River Monitoring – Ngamatapouri School
The Ngamatapouri School Waitotara River Monitoring Project gives students the opportunity to work with scientists and integrate technology to investigate and monitor the changes of the Waitotara River over the course of a year. Students will design, build and trial a device to remotely monitor water levels to provide early warning of floods to the school and local community.

Healthy Living Soil Project – Organic Farm NZ Taranaki/Whanganui
The Healthy Living Soil Project is a collaboration to investigate the benefits of incorporating a scientific approach to the way we grow our food. Participants in the project - local small-scale growers, community groups and horticulture students - will gain a better understanding of their soils and how to grow healthy living soil that fosters optimal food production. With food and food science being key areas focus for Taranaki’s economic development, the outcomes of the Healthy Living Soil Project could have a big impact on growers and gardeners around the mountain.

I Whio that I could live here - Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust
This project is a collaboration between Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust, Manaia and Auroa Primary Schools, Ngāti Tū and Ngāti Haua hapū, Taranaki Mounga, Taranaki Regional Council and Fish and Game. It weaves mātauranga (knowledge, wisdom, understanding, skill) and science with a focus on the hauora (health, vigour) and wairua (spirit, soul) of the Kaupokonui River. The investigation will explore, measure and understand the health of this river along the upper, middle and lower reaches, spanning both it's cultural and ecological significance, and seek ways to restore the river to a standard that is fit for our native taonga (treasure), the Whio.

Fish food and fringes – MAIN Trust NZ
Analysing the restoration work on Taranaki’s riparian margins and wetland ecosystems, students will monitor invertebrates and vegetation, and record environmental factors at their site. The project will generate biodiversity records to measure changes over time, an important factor in gauging the success of habitat restoration. Students will work alongside restoration practitioners and learn about the important work that is being done to restore these important sites. 

Sustainable energy generation for use in electric vehicles – New Plymouth Girls’ High School
This project is a collaborative pilot between students, parents, teachers and the local community to investigate innovative and environmentally sustainable energy generation for use in electric vehicles. Generation methods will be evaluated in a school-based setting that can then be put into future full-scale implementation at Tohonohono Marae, which is situated in the school grounds.

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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