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Citizen Science -- a celebration of partnership between academia and local people

As part of its 50th anniversary events, the University of Leicester is joining with the Earthwatch Institute, currently celebrating 21 years of continuous support for research in the Lakes of Kenyas Rift Valley, with a one-day conference.

Citizen Science Past, Present & Future, to be held at Vaughan College, the Universitys Institute of Lifelong Learning, will showcase longstanding research from the Universitys Departments of Biology and Lifelong Learning, as well as from the Rutland Water Nature Reserve, the British Trust for Ornithology, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the Earthwatch Institute, all linked with the University.

Its emphasis will be on how ordinary citizens have helped scientific research over the years of the Universitys existence. In making this connection, the conference goes back to the very beginnings of Adult Education in Leicester, when Canon Vaughan made academic knowledge including knowledge of the natural world available to ordinary working class men and women of Leicester in the 19th Century. The university is proud to continue these traditions throughout the world.

Leicester biologist Dr David Harper organiser and one of the contributors to the conference - has been carrying out research at Kenyas Naivasha for 25 years, supported for much of that time by the Earthwatch Institute.

Over the years, the project has grown and extended. Now Dr Harper leads an international and inter-disciplinary study of how the issues in water use, ecology and conservation of the lakes in the Kenyan Rift Valley which are unique on the planet - can be integrated with the sustainable livelihoods of indigenous communities around them. It involves research teams each year, led by scientists from Leicester and seven other partner universities Nairobi, Queen Mary, London; Trinity College, Dublin; Bournemouth; Washington State USA; Insubria, Italy and Lodz, Poland.

David Harpers own particular interest is with the limnology (lake ecology) of the soda lakes of the Rift Valley and the flocks of flamingos who depend on them. This is an interest developed since 2000, because of the severe threat to the existence of lesser flamingos caused by insensitive developments, which affect the lakes chemistry.

Dr Harpers talk at the Citizen Science conference, however, will be on 25 Years of Aliens in the Tropical Lake Naivasha. He has studied this lake since 1982, but it was the lake that first gave him the inspiration to become a water scientist when he visited it as a student in the 1970s and marvelled at its wildlife.

Other talks at the event include: 75 Years of Continuous Plankton Survey in the Atlantic (Professor Paul Hart, Department of Biology); 50 Years and Over of Field Botany in the UK (Dr Richard Gornall, Department of Biology); 50 Years of Leicestershire Field Natural History (Mike Webster, Institute of Lifelong Learning); 32 Years of Transformation from Low-Grade Farmland to International Biodiversity (Tim Appleton, MBE and Honorary M.Sc., Warden of the Rutland Water Nature Reserve); 20 Years of Volunteers Survey of Farmland Birds (Dr Ian Henderson, former PhD student, Department of Biology); Farming and Society: 15 Years of Environmental Management Within a Farm Business (Dr Chris Stoate, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Allerton Project); and Citizen Contribution to Science the next 50 years (Dr Nigel Winser, Earthwatch Institute).

The conference will be chaired by Emeritus Professor Aftab Khan, Department of Geology, who also has had an even longer association with the Kenyan Rift Valley, through researching its origins and its present-day geological activities.


Contact: David Harper
University of Leicester

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