The end has arrived: this weekend, the 3000 participants of our large-scale citizen science project sent back their ‘garden dagger’ to us, closing the lid on the data collection for the most ambitious thing I have ever undertaken.
Starting of with 50.000 enthusiastic citizens, selecting a representative set of 4400 of them, augmented with a few hundreds of agricultural fields and nature reserves, we set off on a wild measuring rollercoaster in the spring of 2021. After an extremely wet year that made us wade through an unprecedented wealth of data on how garden soils buffer extreme precipitation events, 3000 of our original citizens were found willing to join us again in 2022 for part 2. A little bit less rain, we hoped this time around, for the sake of science…
We were not disappointed, although our gardens and groundwater reserves definitely were.
Yet, even such an exciting project like this one has an end. We have (more than!) enough data to now dive deep into the science. Unexpectedly interesting data as well, with two extremely contrasting summer seasons, and some interesting cold spells in spring.
What’s funny: normally, I would tell you to now ‘stay tuned for the results’! Yet what makes this project especially exciting is that results rolled in every day, and we had plenty of opportunities to keep the participants – and the general public – on what was happening across Flanders’ gardens. Just scroll through the list of articles on De Standaard newspaper website to see (in Dutch) the many interesting insights we got to communicate so far!
Much more to come, of course, so I’ll say it anyway: stay tuned for more cool results!
So, what’s next? My main wish is that this creates a spark, a movement. We want scientists and society to join forces and start monitoring the environment together, as we did here and as is done in other large-scale community science projects (iNaturalist or eBird, to name two). We want more microclimate networks like this, to get a better view of the very local variation in weather conditions there where it matters for plants.
The good news is: that spark is clearly there. We have MANY talks ongoing with people who want to build on what we have here. So again: stay tuned for more!!!