For a while now, Gaia Resources has been involved in the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). You can find out more about the ALA at www.ala.org.au. I’m actually writing this blog post on the plane on the way back from Canberra, where I have just participated in a two day ALA “All Hands” workshop. At this event, the majority of the people involved in the ALA got together to talk about their own components of the ALA.
Our role to date with the ALA has been to look at the citizen science area. Citizen science in this sense is really about data collected by people who aren’t professional scientists – the general public, community groups and naturalist-style societies. The ALA sees this data as being an important part of our combined knowledge about our environment, and I have to agree.
My own background and professional career has had strong ties to the citizen science area as well. I’ve grown up being interested in the environment, and to this day I still am involved in citizen science activities. Recently, I once again participated in the Rio Tinto Birdwatch – which is another citizen science project – and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching people about our environment, while also collecting information for scientific purposes (the Rio Tinto Birdwatch activity generates data for Birdlife International).
In our work with the ALA, we’ve been looking at who is doing what in the citizen science area. Our experience with the Climatewatch project has been very informative, and has provided us with some great insights into what is happening in the space around citizen science. In addition, we’ve also been discussing how the ALA can help organisations and projects around Australia who are active participants in the citizen science area.
As part of this, last week I had a whirlwind trip to Canberra to be an observer at an information gathering workshop about koalas. These iconic Australian animals are under consideration for listing as a threatened species by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and the workshop aimed to find out who knew what about them. I felt very privileged to be able to attend that workshop. It was full of passionate people from a range of backgrounds, all of whom wanted to contribute as much information as possible to the listing process. There are a number of ways in which the work we are looking at with the ALA can help this sort of process, and I hope that in the fullness of time, I can post some more details of how our work with the ALA has progressed*.
That experience really brought home for me how Gaia Resources can have a positive effect on our environment. Our work with the ALA gives us the opportunity to really make a difference to a range of groups – if we can help them to mobilize their data on the environment, this can be then used by other groups (like DEWHA) to make better decisions about important environmental issues.
While I’m completely shattered from the travel and lack of sleep over the last two weeks, it’s well and truly worth it. I get a real sense of pride from being able to participate in work like this, and I hope this is the sort of thing that Gaia Resources can continue to be involved with.
Now, if only we can find a way whereby we can lessen our impact on the environment from travel…
* One of the things we’re still coming to terms with about this blog has been that we always have to balance client confidentiality with our own enthusiasm and excitement. It’s not always easy – but it’s something we’re getting a better grasp of over time.