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Bute Park Science Trail

25 August 2015

By Claire Astin, first year bioscience student at Cardiff University currently working on a CUROP (Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme) placement under Sustainable Places Research Associate Dr Ria Dunkley’s supervision.

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My brief was to create a citizen science project to be based within Bute Park in Cardiff City Centre and to last the duration of a CUROP placement (8-13weeks). From the point of reading this broad project title on the undergraduate student portal feed my imagination was sparked.

For the last year I have volunteered in a department whose citizen science projects are renowned for their inventiveness and originality. Projects such as BARC (Bag And Remove Cymru) and project SPLATTER are both well established and delivering good results.

The hardest part of this project to date has been whittling down the ideas. The dreams from the potential realities. As a mature student with no A-levels, this is the first original scientific project I have created, a prospect both thrilling and terrifying.

I longed to compose a project which was parasite based, since this is where a big part of my scientific interest lies. Unfortunately, practicalities dictated that this was just not possible. Instead I followed another love of mine; Scientific engagement, primarily that aimed at younger children. I am a local Cub Scout leader and I love teaching the pack really cool science tricks and games.

The idea of a “species safari”/ Nature trail occurred to me. Children love bugs and animals and parents love free summer activities.

With much amazing feedback from my amazingly patient and supportive supervisor and a few of my bioscience lecturers, I created the Bute Park Science Trail to work alongside a number of already established trails in the park.

I also invented a cartoon alter-ego in the form of Seren the Scientist. A fun way to sell the trail to children.

Seren’s trail comprises five stop off markers around Bute park where trail-ers can stop for 3minute intervals and note down whether they spot any of Serens selected species (ie: Grey squirrel. Garden bumble bee, common blue damselfly, harlequin ladybirds and small white butterflies). Some are a lot more common than others, and that is intentional to hold focus. No one wants to hunt animals that aren’t there.

The majority of my CUROP so far has been meeting a wide range of fascinating individuals who are able to help or promote my project in some way. The Bute Park education centre team, in particular Meriel Jones, have been essential in their support and enthusiasm for the project.; as have RSPB Cymru (currently hosting the TAPE project in Bute Park). This project has certainly given me a chance to develop my networking skills.

The project launched on Sunday 23rd August at the “Out of the woods” festival in Sophia gardens. The event was a wash out due to the weather but I met some likeminded individuals and now the word is out and the project is go!

A few weeks ago I could barely tweet, and now not only am I manning a popular twitter feed but also an active Facebook page and have created a website from scratch.

The project is running until Sunday 20th September and I have contacted every newspaper, events listing and relevant group within south Wales to try and get as much coverage as possible. With such a short space of time to work in and with weather very much against me I am on a mission to get my Science trail circulating and hopefully get as much participation for it as possible.

So please spread the word!