University of Antwerp and ‘De Standaard’ launch largest ever citizen science research project on heat and drought.

For several years in a row, heat and drought records have followed one another. Our summers are getting hotter and drier, and we are increasingly affected by these extreme weather events. You’ve probably noticed it in your garden: dry patches appear in the lawn, or trees lose their leaves prematurely during a heat wave. But farmers and managers of nature reserves are also increasingly seeing the direct consequences of heat and drought.

5,000 measuring points

‘CurieuzeNeuzen in de Tuin’, an initiative by the University of Antwerp and national newspaper De Standaard, explores how we can better deal with the effects of increasingly hot and dry summers. How do we ensure that our garden remains cool during a heat wave? And how do we better arm our gardens, as well as our parks, fields and natural areas, against drought?

To answer these questions we want to map heat and drought in great detail all over Flanders. This is a challenging scientific problem and requires a lot of measuring points. Precisely for this reason, CurieuzeNeuzen is appealing to 5,000 citizen scientists to place a smart sensor in their garden, school playground, park or private domain. These smart sensors will transmit their data to the database of the University of Antwerp by using the Internet of Things, thereby making the data available to scientists in real time. Participants will have access to their garden data through a personal online dashboard.  

‘CurieuzeNeuzen in de Tuin’ will yield an internationally unique dataset that will provide scientists with a much better understanding of how drought-prone our gardens, parks, natural and agricultural areas are. The project is part of the international SoilTemp project (LINK), which is establishing a global network of soil weather stations. The 5,000 measurement sites in the CurieuzeNeuzen project provide a considerable data injection into the SoilTemp database.

Thousands of enthusiastic citizen scientists

Drought and heat are scientifically complex problems: there are many factors that cause your garden to be cooler or drier than your neighbors. The scientific strength of CurieuzeNeuzen lies in the number of measurement points. By engaging thousands of enthusiastic citizen scientists, we obtain an exceptionally large data set. This “big data” provides great statistical computational power, allowing us to more easily identify the factors responsible for heat and drought.

Source: University of Antwerp

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