February 23, 2021

UAntwerp engages citizens in science projects on air quality, heat and draught and ticks

The University of Antwerp attaches great importance to reaching out to the public with its science. UAntwerp researchers regularly participate in public science events and coordinate numerous citizen science projects. At the moment, projects are underway on air quality, heat and drought, and ticks in Flemish gardens.

UAntwerp’s most recent citizen science project is CLAIRE, which measures the effects of greenways on air quality. After all, motorised traffic is a major cause of poor air quality, especially in densely populated Flanders. Children are exposed to even more traffic-related pollution than adults because their noses and mouths are closer to exhaust pipes.

UAntwerp therefore launched citizen science project CLAIRE in cooperation with the Province of Antwerp and regional association Zuidrand. CLAIRE stands for ‘Clean AIR for Everyone’ and is part of the European Interreg project Nature Smart Cities. The project features a doll (called Claire, of course) equipped with measuring apparatus. Professor Roeland Samson explains: ‘When Claire is in her buggy, we take measurements of traffic-related pollution, such as soot and particulates, every ten seconds. Other parameters like wind speed and the time of the day (whether it’s rush hour or not) are also recorded. In order to collect as much data as possible, dedicated volunteers take toddler Claire – and little brother Gilbair – out on fixed routes throughout the Antwerp region.’

Heat and drought research

Another project in the pipeline is CurieuzeNeuzen in de Tuin (CuriousNoses in the Garden), the biggest ever citizen science project on heat and drought. An initiative of the University of Antwerp and national newspaper De Standaard, the project aims to explore how we can deal with the effects of increasingly hot and dry summers better. CurieuzeNeuzen is appealing to 5000 citizen scientists to place smart sensor measuring points in their gardens, school playgrounds, parks or private grounds. These smart sensors will transmit their data to the University of Antwerp database using the Internet of Things, making the data available to scientists in real time. 

‘This project 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’, explains Prof. Filip Meysman. ‘The project is part of the international SoilTemp project (LINK), which is establishing a global network of soil weather stations. Measurements will run from 3 April to 2 October 2021. The results and findings will be published in December 2021.’

Ticks in Flemish gardens

And last but not least, the University of Antwerp is asking for citizens’ help in mapping the risk of tick bites in Flemish gardens. Participants are asked to make a sort of flag, drag it through their gardens, send in information on their gardens and the ticks they caught, and then send the ticks to the university’s labs for research.

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