Smart design key to addressing climate change challenges

Collaborative design and citizen science can help to save lives threated by climate change, the leader of a Europe-wide environmental study has said.

Professor Mel Woods, from the University of Dundee, says that simple initiatives can be adopted to protect vulnerable communities from climate-related catastrophes.

Professor Woods, the Academic Lead of the award-winning Grow Observatory soil monitoring study, believes that while governments often turn to science and industry when attempting to address such crises, designers have a key role to play in disaster planning.

She is one of more than 20 new professors, award-winning teachers and students who will be discussing their research at this week’s Discovery Days 2020.

“The kind of collaborative and creative work we do is not about the design of buildings or cars, but subtle, intelligent aspects that can have a huge impact on social and environmental good,” she said.

“One of the most successful aspects of the Grow Observatory was the development of a game aimed at helping communities draw on their expertise to help authorities prepare for climate-related scenarios, such as wildfires and flooding. This was done with the creation of just a simple set of cards, allowing communities and other stakeholders to understand what to do and who to turn to should they be threatened by these events.”

The Grow Observatory was a £6.8 million collaboration between the University of Dundee and 18 partner organisations from across Europe, which concluded last October.

Free soil sensors were distributed to citizen scientists across the continent, gathering data from communities from Ireland in the west to Greece in the east. Collecting information such as moisture content and air temperature, the data has been used to enhance understanding of soil conditions, validate weather information from satellites, while also allowing food producers to adapt farming methods to address issues prompted by climate change.

Discovery Days 2020 runs from Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 January, beginning with a public session of the University’s Court. Admission to all talks is free with tickets available online.