From 18th to 21st February members of the GAUGE and GREENHOUSE projects took part in a public outreach activity at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. Under the title Mission: Climate Science, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) Edinburgh used a variety of interactive displays to engage with children of nursery, primary and secondary school age as well as adults of all ages on the topic of greenhouse gas (GHG) research.
Several thousand visitors over four days saw Mission: Climate Science.
Robyn Butler talks about her experiences working onboard a research aircraft.
The key element and eye-catcher of the Mission: Climate Science event was a mockup of the FAAM research aircraft. Several seats equipped with headphones for two-way communication, an instrument rack and the view from real flights as videos in the windows recreated the atmosphere of an actual science mission. Scientists were at hand to explain the work on board and tell some personal anecdotes.
Emanuel Blei demonstrates how to measure the rate of photosynthesis in plants.
On a further stand we presented a light-response chamber with a working Licor-6400 portable photosynthesis system to show to children of late primary school age and above and adults how to measure the rate of photosynthesis from plants on a farm setting and how to relate these measurements with remotely sensed data from satellites or ground stations. We then put these into the wider context of climate change and how scientists can try to predict future climate using these data and computer models.
Douglas Finch measures the greenhouse gas emissions from various soils.
On the third and last stand we used a greenhouse gas analyser to measure CO2 and methane emissions from a forest soil, food waste and sheep manure to engage children and adults alike with the topic of climate impact. Using a large monitor to display the graphs of changing greenhouse gas concentrations we showed how afforestation on peat land, landfill sites and dairy/meat-production can influence the climate. We then set this in context with the Scottish government's ambitious climate goals and how this will require behavioural chances beyond traditional energy saving measures. We also presented posters and information leaflets related to various climate change topics and NERC-funded projects.
On the four days of the display, approximately three and a half thousand visitors were recorded by Our Dynamic Earth. Of these a large fraction were children that came to the aircraft mock-up. A smaller number of older children and adults came to the information stands to read the posters and information sheets and to listen to the explanations of our scientists. Listening to our staff, members of the public would often be engaged for 5 to 15 minutes. Despite the fact that these talks contained details that are technically challenging for a lay-person the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Hermione Cockburn, Dynamic Earth's Scientific Director, commented: "Mission: Climate Science was a tremendously successful extension to the Dynamic Earth visitor experience over four days during the very busy February schools half term period. It was a special opportunity for the full spectrum of our visitors to engage with climate scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology with an array of hands-on activities. This included the eye-catching 'Science in the Sky' FAAM aircraft mock-up which helped convey the process of taking greenhouse gas measurements in a way that was immersive and accessible to all. This was directly in keeping with the ethos of Dynamic Earth's mission to engage our visitors with the story of the Earth within the framework of Earth and environmental sciences in a fun and interactive way. Good science engagement is about creating memorable experiences backed up by expertise and passionate communicators and this is exactly what Mission: Climate Science delivered."
The event was organised by members of the GAUGE and GREENHOUSE projects at the School of GeoScience, University of Edinburgh, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) Edinburgh; with support from the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM), the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), and the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory (WACL), University of York.