CurieuzeNeuzen in the Garden

HOW WE TEAMED UP WITH DE STANDAARD AND THE UNIVERSITY OF ANTWERP TO ENCOURAGE CITIZEN SCIENTISTS TO MEASURE THE EFFECTS OF HOT AND DRY SUMMERS ON THEIR GARDENS 

Is your garden heading for burnout? Does your lawn tan faster than you do? Does your garden have a drinking problem in summer? With these surprising questions, “CurieuzeNeuzen in the Garden”, a public participation survey by De Standaard newspaper and the University of Antwerp, aimed to make us think about the impact of increasingly longer periods of drought and heatwaves on Flemish gardens. After CurieuzeNeuzen’s first public participation survey about air quality in 2018, this time they dug deeper. Once again, we were able to develop a three-phase communication project. 

CurieuzeNeuzen in the Garden measured the heat and drought in no fewer than 5,000 gardens across the whole of Flanders. During the recruitment period from January 23 to February 14, we looked for enthusiastic citizen scientists who were happy to collect data in their own gardens for six months using a smart measuring station in the lawn. The data they collected was transferred via the Internet of Things to the researchers at the University of Antwerp who were running the project. All the results were published in De Standaard, both during the investigation and at its conclusion. 

With this large-scale study, CurieuzeNeuzen aimed to raise climate awareness in a friendly way, create a database of heat and drought countermeasures and, if possible, to provide solid solutions. They started with a subject that’s close to every Fleming’s heart, “our garden”.  

To get potential citizen scientists involved, we came up with a campaign which highlighted the climate changes that we can see with our own eyes in our own gardens. The challenge wasn’t just finding 5,000 volunteers spread evenly across Flanders, it was also bringing heatwave (and drought) problems to the forefront during a campaign that ran in the middle of winter. 

We devised a creative approach which used seemingly absurd questions to get people thinking about the effects of climate change in their own gardens. This principle was applied to different themes, each one highlighting a different aspect of the problem. The final appeal not only appeared via De Standaard’s various channels, but also on TV, radio, social media and on posters. 

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