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The Contribute of Citizen Science to support Urban Nature and Ecological Literacy in Chinese Cities (NSFC grant ID#6201101276)

citizens science, urban-nature, urban ecology, data science, digital fabrication

The proposal investigates by practice the concept of “ecological civilisation” at the urban level; it produces knowledge about ecological literacy through cases of ecological participation. 
The project includes two parts: the first part selected and analysed existing projects that use technology for a positive impact on Nature. This collection acquired knowledge about how technological development is supporting ecological challenges within cities. The outcome of this phase is an online catalogue of cases. 

The second part is applied Action Research and fieldwork; initiatives of CS and participatory ecology have been prototyped and implemented. Observation and mapping of biodiversity, collecting nature data using homemade printed circuit boards (PCB), developing interactive devices which embed ecology concepts and are available to citizens to use, and experimenting with biomedia and biomaterials to study ecological cycles are among the tools used in this phase.

As an outcome, a laboratory of Citizen Science and Participatory Ecology open to everyone has been established, supported by the University and the Fablab, and hosted in Xinhua community Design Centre. This laboratory will continue to offer learning opportunities about ecology and enable more participation in discovering urban nature. The projects completed 4 publications and 4 papers are under peer review or final editing. I also participated in and organised many dissemination and public events, which served as an outreach of the project and also as a fundamental component of the participatory methodology. 

1. Overview of the implementation of the research plan

Outline of the results according to the planned objectives:

  1. Produce dissemination work about the concept of ecological literacy and current existing projects about urban-nature relationship, with a focus on Citizen Science (achieved)
  2. Design and implement action research to involve citizens in Citizen Science and ecological practice (partially achieved)
  3. Utilise instruments of dissemination and cooperation to bring the results outside of academia and create the possibility of a long-term laboratory of practice to continue the work on participatory ecology and Citizen Science (achieved)

Considering the restrictions of the pandemic and despite the difficulties of creating full-scale participatory action of CS, we still managed to create many opportunities to expose citizens to access and experience in interactive ways data from science and nature, and in this way make progress on studying and contributing to ecological awareness. This work will continue with more research results in the next months following the further implementation of the activities.

 2. Research contents, methods, and outline of outcomes

2.1 Case studies
PI performed a collection of case studies throughout the duration of the project with the goal to understand how technology is currently utilised in ecology projects (data-science, AI, digital fabrication), and which technologies may be more relevant for our design work (sensors and data-science, interactive device, fabrication and biomedia). 
Outcomes: we used this collection as a base to build the “Ecology Dataset Platform”

2.2 Action Research (lab-work and fieldwork)
Despite the pandemic restrictions, Action Research is being pushed forward:

  • Design and construction of PCB (printed circuit boards) to explore and collect ecological data (in the number of 10+)
  • Design and prototypes of interactive devices to embody ecological concepts (in the number of 20+)
  • Data-driven analysis of Shanghai green space based on satellite image analysis and in relationship to the city Census and population data
  • Experiments with bioplastic and their implementation in urban scenario

Outcomes: these data and methods have been used for the 4 publications achieved with this research grant (1 journal, 2 conferences, 1 book chapter).

2.3 Teaching and design implementation
Many research-led curriculum with relevance to the project, related both to the theory aspects of CS, and to the practice of Action Research and fieldwork have been implemented:

Outcomes: these data and methods have been used for the 4 publications achieved with this research grant (1 journal, 2 conferences, 1 book chapter).

3. Academic cooperation and exchanges
  1. Data Logics. China at the Intersection of Digitalisation and Green Transition
  2. Pluriverse Skins
    Dr. Chiara Scarpitti, Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture and Design, University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”
  3. Mapping the Urban Ecosystem
    Dr. Enza Migliore, Shenzhen University of Science and Technology  SUSTech
  4. Ecology of bioregions
    Prof. Daniel Della Bosca, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, in collaboration with SUAD Shandong University of Art and Design

International Conferences and keynotes

4. Project achievements

Scientific Outreach

  • Establishing of the website (mirror available)  for research dissemination and the related Official Wechat account “Ecology and Design” (Wechat ID “ECIL_Tongji”)
  • Co-Organiser “Open Night about City and Nature”, Sino-Italian Campus, Tongji University, December 5th, 2022
  • Organiser, Earth Day 2022, A Playlist for Enchantment and Reconnection. 24h of streaming of ecological contents
    组织者,2022 年地球日,附魔和重新连接的播放列表。 24小时生态内容流
  • Curator of the exhibition “Design, Nature and the Pluriverse” for Tongji Design Week 2021
  • Organiser and Host, International Forum “Design, Nature and the Pluriverse”, December 20th, 2021 with 600+ online audience
    “设计、自然与多元宇宙”国际论坛的组织者和主持人,2021 年 12 月 20 日,600 多名在线观众
  • Curator of Shanghai Makerfaire and presentation of PCB and interactive project to more than 10000 visitors 

It is our motivation to publish regular updates of our team activities and to keep the public informed on the achievements and impact of scientific research.  
本报告中提及的内容、活动和事件记录在我们的研究团队数字界面镜像可用),其中还包括一个关于 NSFC 资助项目和成果的特定页面 https://ecologydesignlabl .org/web/nsfc-citizenscience/ 。

For more details, you can access and navigate all the NSFC related content here

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