Soil, Undies, and Litter Duty announced as new Curious Minds projects

Venture Taranaki has announced a further two new Participatory Science Platform (PSP) Curious Minds Taranaki community science projects, bringing the total number of projects in the region to 59 since 2015 and the funding amount distributed in Taranaki to $981,728.

Led by Venture Taranaki and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Justine Gilliland Venture Taranaki Chief Executive says, "the new projects show how our strong community-led collaborations are increasingly connecting with scientific capability to drive local research, interest in science, and quality decision-making."

Not to be fooled by the name, the ‘Soil Your Undies’ project brings together conservation and agriculture partners to work alongside schools across the region to investigate the health of our local soil. Students will consider the role of soil inhabitants such as earthworms and dung beetles as ecosystem engineers and how different soil types and farming systems impact soil biology.

The second project announced, ‘Call of Litter Duty’, has Taranaki children as young as 3-years-old investigate where litter in their community comes from and what actions they can take to influence litter reduction. Students will test app-based technology to collect data and gain insights into perceptions of litter within their community. These insights will shape student initiatives that aim to affect positive behaviours and empower the wider community to monitor and reduce litter prevalence.

"Curious Minds has been running in Taranaki since 2015 and the two newly announced projects are exciting additions to the existing pool of diverse kaupapa that continue to have a significant and positive impact within our communities, reaching every corner of our region," continues Justine.

The new projects are about to get underway, working with school students from the start of term three, 26 July. PSP is an initiative that aims to engage communities of all kinds in research projects that are locally relevant and have robust science/technology outputs with quality learning outcomes.

"Through Curious Minds Taranaki, we can fund a range of projects that reflect our regional strategic goals and aspirations, aligning with our community vision for a better tomorrow, through community-based and innovative research. We can also engage our young learners and arm them with invaluable practical skills while demonstrating they can make a difference in their communities."

"The Wētā Watcher project which was announced as a PSP Curious Minds Taranaki project in December 2020 is an awesome example of this. The project brings together scientists, iwi, conservation and school groups to install the wētā watcher cameras on our Maunga and uses artificial intelligence to monitor wildlife and collate important datasets," adds Justine.

The core objective of the Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform is to build capability, and a life-long interest and fascination with science, through engaging, real-world research, to inspire and provide relevance as to how science forms a critical part of our daily lives.

For more information on PSP and Curious minds in Taranaki, please visit the Venture Taranaki website