Four new Curious Minds projects connect citizens to science

Venture Taranaki has announced four new Curious Minds community science projects, bringing the total number of projects in the region to 46 since 2015, with $740,000 in overall funding to help local residents test their ideas and observations with science.
The four new projects span coastal monitoring, understanding and possible development of natural resources, exploring virtual reality use amongst Alzheimers patients, and changing recycling behaviours at point of sale.
“These projects reflect diverse responses to opportunities of utilising scientific research to explore the world around us,” says Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland.
“Curious Minds seeks to prompt people to think more deeply about the world around them and look for aspects of their world which bear deeper thinking or closer scrutiny. We then connect these ideas with the scientists and other technical experts to develop and test that thinking.”
“Fostering this greater connection has the potential to start a life-long fascination with science and innovation amongst the younger Curious Minds participants, while opportunities to develop a greater understanding and new products is often a driver for other project groups.”
“As we look at recovery from COVID-19, programmes like Curious Minds become increasingly important. Exploration and testing hypothesis and ideas can help lead to innovation and advancement, not just in the studied field, but across the board.”
“This has the potential to help us deal with factors such as a global pandemic, but also to take a more analytical look at the world around us.”
Led by Venture Taranaki and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Curious Minds works with school and community groups who have questions or ideas that can be explored or tested with science. Teams partner with the science or technology expertise to help them engage with science and understand more about topics relevant to them.
About the new projects
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.
Seachange Surveys will provide methods to monitor changes over time and allow communities to effectively manage their kaimoana species. The project aims for these methods to be 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 Iwi/Hapu.
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 rongoa (traditional medicinal uses). The project also offers the opportunity for Ngāti Mutunga and their community to further understand the whenua they whakapapa to and to strengthen that relationship.
Exploring a place for Virtual Reality (VR) in dementia is a project 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 then 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 will see Ōpunake Kindergarten, 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.
Find out more about Curious Minds here