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Community groups, meet scientists – funding and experts

The Otago Participatory Science Platform (PSP) grant is now open for applications. If you have a burning question that science could answer, PSP can help connect you with the scientists and the funding to do so.

In PSP projects, communities or volunteers are meaningfully involved from the start in developing and running research projects alongside scientists.

Dr Claire Concannon, the Otago coordinator says, “The PSP is all about grass-roots driven research, so that the questions being answered are ones that the community really cares about. Say your community group is concerned about how your region will be affected by climate change, or wants to research ways to make your community more adaptable or sustainable. We can help pair you with a scientist or a science team, and together, you can develop a science plan to answer that question.”

The Otago PSP is managed by Otago Science Into Action – a collaborative partnership led by Otago Museum and involving the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, and the NZ International Science Festival – with funding provided by the Minsitry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) under the Curious Minds initiative to engage more New Zealanders in science. Since starting in 2015, the Otago PSP has funded more than 50 projects across the Otago region. Groups can apply for up to $20 000 to help answer their research question.

What sharks live around Otago’s coast? How many bats live in the Catlins, and what do they need to thrive? What’s stopping more students getting their eye sight tested and improved? What is the health of our southern streams?

These are just some of the questions that community groups and schools have been investigating in the 2019 PSP-funded projects.

The Quarantine Island Kamau Taurua community was one of last year’s recipients. This community group works on restoring the Island's ecosystem. “The PSP funding was vital for our project. It helped us answer important questions around our trapping and biodiversity measuring methods, and to include the wider community in a meaningful, and enjoyable, way” said Kristen Bracey, one of the regular volunteers.

In the If we build it, will Peripatus come’ project, school groups worked with scientific experts to learn more about the habitat needs of the iconic Dunedin peripatus, commonly known as the velvet worm, and shared their findings at the Wild Dunedin Festival and through a podcast on Otago Access Radio. For project coordinator Dr. Cynthia Winkworth, a major benefit was the continued lasting impact on the children – “They are still sharing all about it with people – months after we’ve finished!”

If you have a project that you would like funding for and the support of Otago’s scientific community, visit www.scienceintoaction.nz or email claire.concannon@otagomuseum.nz for more information.

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