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03 June 2013

Monitoring the environmentA new $1.5 million initiative, led by the University of South Australia, aims to connect communities to their natural environments.

Creating Biophilic Cities through Citizen Science is a five-year long program which will see a new research unit at UniSA’s Barbara Hardy Institute conducting research, education and community engagement projects aimed at cultivating public awareness of environmental assets and issues while promoting environmental stewardship.

The program will expand on the successes of previous Citizen Science projects such as the 2012 Great Koala Count and Operation Magpie. New large-scale citizen science projects and community events will be developed following extensive community and stakeholder consultation.

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

“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,” Roetman says.

“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.

“A partnership with New Zealand’s leading research university, Victoria University of Wellington, will further underpin research into the way people engage with nature.

“We’ve also been working with local organisations on this initiative, including the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board; the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources; ABC local radio; CSIRO and several local councils.

“The partnership approach is key to the success of this initiative.”

Kym Good, Regional Manager of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, highlighted the community benefits of the initiative.

“We are always keen to work with the community and this Citizen Science initiative is a great way to give the community a voice about their local natural environment and to collect information that will help us make informed decisions in natural resources management.  We look forward to being involved in this exciting work,” he said.

The initiative will be launched at the Bradley Forum on June 3 with a stakeholder workshop and a memorandum of understanding, which will be signed with Victoria University of Wellington.

Further details on the initiative can be found here.

Contact: Philip Roetman office 8302 1081 email Philip.Roetman@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Will Venn office 8302 0965 email Will.Venn@unisa.edu.au

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