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New Taranaki projects launch for 2020


Eight new Participatory Science Platform projects in Taranaki - ranging from indigenous textiles to Virtual Reality for dementia - have been given the green light for 2020.

The latest batch of projects in Taranaki include mushrooms cultivation from spent coffee grounds, trialling solar-powered sound lures for pest traps, and an investigation into drone-based kiwi location technology.

“These projects represent an exciting opportunity for not only those conducting them, but the wider Taranaki region too, often bringing together youth, community, enterprise and science and research,” says Josh Richardson, Project Co-ordinator  at Venture Taranaki.

The projects are conceived, developed and proposed by the communities who will undertake them, usually driven by challenges or problems those communities see around them. The Taranaki Participatory Science Platform (PSP) then matches these groups with scientific or technical experts to help them progress the project.

“The great thing about science and technology research is that even when things don’t work to plan, the results are often just as interesting and can lead to more interesting questions and lines of enquiry. The PSP allows our community to be inquisitive and have the freedom to explore without fear of failure,” Josh explains.

These projects are getting underway now, as the groups begin their journey to explore, validate and evolve their thinking.

Taranaki is one of three regions where the PSP has been operating since 2015, with a total of 50 projects funded to date in this area. The PSP is part of the Curious Minds suite of programmes and invests in innovative projects that encourage communities to embrace science and technology.


Project details

Haurapa Kiwi
Haurapa Kiwi is a project which aims to change the way kiwi are monitored in Taranaki. All kiwi translocations to new areas require monitoring of birds for 1-2 years after they are released. The current method for tracking kiwi involves using telemetry equipment from the ground. To track non-territorial sub-adult kiwi, a fixed wing plane is often used as young birds on Mt Taranaki have been known to move up to 12km after they are released. This combination of methods is both time consuming and expensive. The Taranaki Kiwi Trust is working with Drone Technologies NZ and Oakura School to research whether telemetry equipment can be attached to a drone, and then test its efficiency in locating kiwi. If successful, this could allow a more economical and more accurate method of kiwi detection and monitoring.

He Whenua, He Tangata, He Oranga: A Fashionable Fight
The fashion industry produces almost 20% of the world’s wastewater and contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas. Led by Whiri Design, this project sets out to explore how indigenous textile development and pedagogies intersects with 21st century commercial design and production methods within the fashion industry. Supported by Dr Steve McNeil of AgResearch and local Mātauranga Māori experts and Māori Art Practitioners, students from Te Wharekura o Te Pihipihinga Kākano Mai i Rangiātea will lead an exploration of how traditional Māori knowledge and indigenous dying methodologies can innovate current textile manufacturing processes and systems.

Ground Breaking Mushrooms
Mushrooms and coffee. For many people this will sound like a match made in heaven. For The Bishop’s Action Foundation and Spotswood College, this partnership of bean and fungi is the focus of research. Spent coffee grounds collected from cafes are an ideal substrate ingredient for growing oyster mushrooms. The grounds are full of unspent energy and, through the process of coffee making, are pasteurised. Students will work with local mushroom growing expert Matthew Williams and their school science department to experiment with how different substrate mixes and environmental variables effect mushroom growth. Results from this study will help the development of a social enterprise dedicated to utilising spent coffee grounds from cafes around Taranaki.

Auroa School Sound Lures
Auroa School are investigating the way sound can be used to increase the efficiency of pest traps. Students have been working with their teacher Myles Webb and local engineer Andrew Hornblow to develop weather tight, solar powered devices capable of emitting any pre-recorded sound. The first step will be to work with local landowners to see if sound lures help attract possums to traps. Following this further refinement of the device will take place, and conservation groups will be invited to trial the lures and provide feedback on their utility.

Seachange Surveys
Seachange Surveys is a citizen science project that aims to help local communities monitor coastal species - primarily kaimoana (seafood) - in their rohe moana (coastal area). The project is led by Wild for Taranaki and supported by a wide range of community organisations and business, including Ngā Mahanga a Tairi, Taranaki Iwi, Ngā Motu Marine Reserve Society, Highlands Intermediate, Taranaki Green School, Omata School, Coastal Taranaki School, and Drone Technologies NZ. This project will provide research methods that are simple, efficient and adaptable so that they can be applied to a range of coastal species and sites by varied participant groups, including school groups and local hapū.

Papa Pokepoke 
Papa Pokepoke explores the unique features and properties of papa/clay found within the Ngāti Mutunga rohe. The project will see scientists from GNS and Verum Group worth with Ngāti Mutunga to foster a greater understanding of the physical make-up of papa and how it originated in Taranaki. The project will then investigate how this abundant resource could provide a valuable, sustainable and environmentally friendly material for building, pottery, and rongoā (traditional medicinal uses). The project also offers the opportunity for Ngāti Mutunga and their community to further understand the whenua they whakapapa to and strengthen that relationship.

Exploring a place for Virtual Reality (VR) in dementia
This project has been developed by Alzheimers Taranaki to explore new ways of supporting its clients. The collaboration with Dr Linda Jones will see Alzheimers Taranaki volunteers train in an existing arts-for-dementia program and research local clients’ interests and deficits during visits to local museums. The findings will help create an original VR program that includes activities specifically written with New Zealand content. If VR is shown to be an effective way to support cognitive and social skills, it could provide a template for future museum guided visits and the VR programme.
Our Green Ōpunake Journey
Ōpunake Kindergarten and Sustainable Taranaki explore the impacts of point of purchase information on recycling behaviour. The project will collect a baseline of what people say they are doing versus what they actually do when it comes to recycling, and then test the impacts of presenting shoppers with recycling information and calls to action on improving recycling behaviour, culminating in a comparison looking to positively shift recycling habits.

Photo credit: Seachange Surveys


Scientists and locals collaborating around a table

Participatory Science Platform

Supports collaborative projects that bring together communities and scientists or technologists on research investigating a locally-important question or problem.

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