Thursday 21 October 2021

Spot the Tree Challenge launched at Esplora

The GLOBE Observer App for citizens to collect data from trees to help scientists compare and validate the data collected from satellites was launched at Esplora Interactive Science Centre, Kalkara, Malta, on Wednesday 6th October.

The Globe Observer App was launched as part of an initiative, between Esplora under the Ministry for Equality, Research and Innovation, GLOBE Malta through the Ministry for Education, and the U.S. Embassy in Malta, that contributes to efforts to address climate change. The spot the tree challenge will encourage citizens to spot trees around the Maltese Islands and to then map and measure their height using the NASA’s Observer App.

Addressing a press conference held at Esplora Interactive Science Centre, Kalkara the Honourable Owen Bonnici, Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation said: “Through the challenge proposed by this collaboration, we are not only aiming to encourage school children to approach the sciences and interact with them, but also to instil in them an appreciation for nature and increase their awareness of the importance of trees in our environment. We are aiming to increase a sense of responsibility and accountability for the care of our natural environment in our younger generations.”

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Gwendolyn Green said : “I am delighted to be part of this collaborative effort between ESPLORA Interactive Science Centre and the Malta chapter of GLOBE. The United States Embassy served as an early convener of these two outstanding organizations and we are proud to see that connection creating such an impressive initiative that will contribute to the global fight against climate change.”  

Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Executive Chairman of the Malta Council for Science and Technology, said that: “Today’s event is a celebration of the fruitful collaboration between Esplora, Globe Malta and the U.S. Embassy. We are very pleased to support and participate in this project to further promote ‘citizen engagement’ in research.

One of Esplora’s aims is to foster good relations and effective communication between researchers and our society. One way of doing this is to involve citizens directly in research studies. We can do so by encouraging them to engage in collecting data, for instance. We believe that citizens play an important role in addressing the challenges for a sustainable future. It is by doing science together that we can combine resources and expertise to raise awareness, build capacity and provide innovative and sustainable solutions. Esplora offers a unique platform, bringing researchers, citizens and organisations together to work towards a common goal. He added that “ongoing efforts to engage people in research, such as the Globe Challenge, will also help to continue improving the perception and attitudes of the public towards science.”

Anyone can participate in this initiative, families, students, teachers, adults, and older adults. Science is better when we do it together. By participating in this challenge, citizens will be improving their science observation skills will be forming part of a world-wide community of citizen scientists and will help to gather tree-height data which can be used by NASA and GLOBE scientists learning more about why trees are important.

Prof. Paul Pace, Associate Professor in Education for Sustainable Development at the University of Malta gave an overview of Globe Programme Malta. He said: “There are two forms of Science education: Knowing ABOUT Science and DOING Science. DOING Science involves presenting issues that are relevant to the learners’ experience, nurturing an enquiring mind about these issues, exploring different and creative ways of addressing the issues, critically evaluating proposed solutions and acquiring knowledge from different disciplines. Learning to anticipate and face change in different contexts of their life. Through its interdisciplinary hands-on activities, GLOBE provides students and the public with the opportunity to actively contribute to our understanding of Earth and systems at local, regional, and global scales. Through GLOBE, Maltese students have engaged in investigations about local environmental issues and come up with results and inferences that have received international acclaim and even generated university-based research. I am confident that by teaming up with Esplora, GLOBE Malta has gained a strategic partner in its quest to make science more accessible.”

Over the past few decades, so much fossil fuels have been burnt and so much carbon dioxide has been released in the air, that the Earth’s temperature has risen. There exists a carbon problem, and unless we do something about it, Earth is going to get hotter.
Thinking about trees as a carbon sink, through a natural process, trees are able to capture the carbon dioxide from the air and use it to grow! The more trees there are, the more harmful carbon dioxide being omitted from fossil fuels can be offset. This means that not only fossil fuels need to be replaced with alternative forms of fuels, but also new trees and forests need to be planted to make up for what has already been released. But new trees and forests take decades to mature. This means, the already existing trees must be appreciated and protected.
Space Agencies like NASA use satellites to gather data on trees all around the world, from their structure and height, to how carbon moves through the ecosystem. Knowing the height of a tree helps scientists measure how much carbon is stored in that tree. All citizens can participate towards this challenge by downloading the app

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