GROW Observatory: Connecting Citizens with Open Data

GROW Observatory: Connecting Citizens with Open Data


GROW is essentially a Citizens Observatory to collect environmental monitoring data and the data we are collecting relates to soil and land. And we are using that data with citizens to improve soil and land management. We started out with this idea, of thousands of people collaborating to share data and knowledge around problems they face and around major issues for science. What we’ve achieved so far is we’ve taken
this concept, this idea of a Citizens Observatory and we’ve turned it into something real, something tangible on the ground. GROW benefits soils in two ways: First with free education and secondly through practice. So thinking of the education, we have a number of resources, mostly online, that educate citizens on the importance of soil through the production of crops and a whole range of different services, such as infiltration of water, the storage of carbon and the storage of contaminants, for example. And so we’ve develop an educational resource
through massive open online courses or MOOCs, that train people to become citizen scientists. As well as this, we’ve got an App that helps people to categorise both their land and the the soil conditions, in which they are growing. And we’re developing an Edible Plant Database, that helps to refine planting and harvesting dates for certain edible crops across different regions. The Edible Plant Database is a collection
of about 120 plants. There’s vegetables, there’s herbs and
there’s fruits. The database itself contains lots of information about the plant, what it’s used for and it also contains planting and harvesting dates. The planting and harvesting dates are throughout Europe, so there are 12 different European zones that we’ve used to give advice on planting and harvesting. Most gardeners are experimenters. They try different crops and try different methods, but not usually in a structured way. This is where working with GROW and the support from our online courses has helped them have approached their garden in a more experimental way and helped to produce evidence of what would really work in their space, but also in a more general term. If you do have a garden and your garden is sloping a little bit, the upper part of the slope will have different soil moisture values and your lower part. So if you put one sensor to the top and one
sensor to the bottom and then, you start interpolating the data
in between the two observation points then you start estimating the real value for all the points of your garden. By collecting thousands of soil moisture measurements on the ground, GROW will contribute to Earth Observation and remote sensing so it is quite important to get a lot of soil
moisture observations on the ground to have a reference for satellite observations. Right now, there are thousands of soil moisture sensors in the hands and the growing spaces of citizens in our 9 GROW Places. We are working together with our community champions, from grassroots communities to universities to distribute more sensors in the coming months, capturing the diversity of climates and land use systems across Europe. Citizens on the Changing Climate Mission can collect soil data using a number of tools Firstly, they need their soil sensor, then there are a couple of different mobile apps that they need. They need the Flower Power app, which interacts with their sensor using bluetooth and collects the soil moisture data from the sensor. They also then need to connect their Flower Power account to GROW, using the GROW website and they also need the GROW app, where they can input some other data about their soil. At the end, we’ll be connecting this data
to satellite Sentinel 1, in order to ground truth and provide a finer grained data set to help scientists and also help individuals predict things like heat waves, droughts, and other extreme events that are coming about due to climate change. Looking ahead, as the sensing network and the data continues to grow, we can look forward to getting our hands on those data. We are going to be producing some visualizations, which will enable us to make sense of that data and draw insights about the land around us. And we also want to see creative uses of those data that we haven’t imagined. We want to see new ideas emerging from the community. We are going to see people adopting new practices. We are going to see ideas in policy taken up. and most of all, as we move into the next
year, we want the story of GROW to be told by those people taking part. Not by us, but by people who are making it their own and taking it to places that we haven’t imagined yet.

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