‘Citizen scientists’ wanted to map sounds and nature of urban Grangetown

22 June 2016

Researchers are to look around Grangetown to reveal its own distinctive micro-environments reflected in different types of birds and plants to how polluted its air is in different places.

Local volunteers are being recruited to become “citizen scientists” to measure everything from air and water quality, to record the sounds we can hear in different parts of the suburb and the types of nature around us.

Academics from eight different disciplines at Cardiff University and National Museum Wales are running the Environmental Crowdsensing project.

One of them is Dr Yangang Xing, an expert on “urban heat islands” and a research fellow at the Wales School of Architecture. The basic concept is this: For those of us living in built-up, urban areas, how can we better design our buildings and plant trees and vegetation in such a way that we get the maximium benefit back in terms of our health and the happiness about where we live?

It might be the materials we use on our buildings or the types of tree we plant – and where they grow.

Dr Xing believes growing different plants can help an area’s air quality.

Meanwhile, “sound wheels” have been created by two artists at the Welsh School of Architecture which can help people listen to sounds of trees – and this acoustic research can help discuss the feeling and meaning of the sounds.

But first, the research team wants to involve local Grangetown people themselves as field workers to gather the material.

What’s the hope of the project achieving eventually? “Over the next 12 months, six individuals or groups will be trained to measure urban greening impacts on urban heat islands, air and water quality and acoustics,” said Dr Xing. “These will contribute to research on benefits to health and wellbeing, place-based identity, sociality and political empowerment.”

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Dr Xing told us that people will be trained to measure the impact of urban green spaces on wellbeing “and identify potential for future urban greening initiatives. ”

Residents interested in taking part can go to a second monthly workshop on Thursday 28th July at Grange Bowls Pavilion (7pm-9pm, with a break for tea/cake).

It will look at urban heat island effects but also cover topics ranging from how to use lichen on trees as a measure of air quality; how to survey our local soundscape; and basic bird surveying.

There are more details of the project here.

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