Design for a citizen science and public engagement project celebrating Antarctica and the Southern Ocean


Liz Barrios de la Torre

Liz Barrios de la Torre

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Antarctica is a unique and beautiful continent that is key to the global ecosystem and climate. Research based in Antarctica is helping scientists explore cutting-edge questions in oceanography, physics, climate science, ecology, and more. To most members of the public, however, Antarctica appears to be a cold and inhospitable place with little relevance to daily life. This project asks if combining a citizen science campaign and an immersive museum experience can increase a sense of stewardship to care for Antarctica within people around the world. 

For this project, the Space Enabled research group designed a concept for an interactive, room-scale multi-sensory presentation providing education regarding the Antarctic.This presentation is designed to be placed in an informal education venue such as an aquarium or science museum. The immersive presentation helps participants understand this dynamic region through an experience that combines photos, video, sound, smell,  and temperature changes. The information draws on multiple types of data from earth science satellites (i.e., ICESAT), airborne science platforms (i.e., IceBridge), and in-situ sensors (i.e., underwater video cameras and photographs). As participants go through the experience, they hear vignettes about specific research areas in Antarctica, including studies on penguin colonies, ice cores, meteorite searches, and ocean food chains. 

In addition to the physical, interactive presentation, the second aspect of the project involves a companion Citizen Science campaign. Specifically, citizen scientists and students located in countries near the Southern Ocean (including Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia) are invited to participate in a data collection campaign about their part of the Southern Ocean. A proposed mobile application in both English and Spanish could invite participants to submit photographs of the shoreline on the Southern Ocean. Our team is prototyping a small, low-cost kit that allows citizen scientists to take measurements such as temperature, salinity and pH measurements from coastal areas facing the Southern Ocean. Information from these citizen scientists could be incorporated into the physical presentation in the museum. Meanwhile, the visual aspects of the presentation may be provided online as photo or video files that  could be downloaded to host on their own platforms.