Earthwatch’s role within the HSBC Water Programme has been to set up FreshWater Watch – a global scientific research programme which is engaging 7,500 HSBC employees as Citizen Science Leaders.
FreshWater Watch has two overarching global research questions:
1.What are the links between water quality and quantity and environmental, socio-economic and governance drivers such as climate, land use and pollutant transport.
2.Which catchment-based activities and conditions offer the best means of positively enhancing the quantity and quality of water available for local communities and aquatic ecosystems?
The Citizen Science Leaders (CSLs) are trained to conduct scientific research, contribute to the global freshwater database and be ‘ambassadors’ for the programme – engaging colleagues, family and friends and become part of a diverse global community.
Sara Banning is Earthwatch’s Online Learning Co-ordinator and has a major role in developing how the CSLs learn about the freshwater challenge and how to be citizen scientists. Here she talks about her role, the power of collective action and the joys of being a CSL.
What is learning in the context of Earthwatch’s programmes?
In essence, ‘Learning’ is making sense of the world around us. From the ‘ah ha’ moments to the gradual process of acquiring knowledge, we have all been learning since we were born, and will continue learning for the rest of our lives. The process of learning often leads to changes in attitudes, behaviour and perception.
How important is learning to Earthwatch’s role in the HSBC Water Programme ?
CSLs get hands-on experience of scientific research as well as build their knowledge and awareness of freshwater issues in their region, and around the world and learning underpins every aspect of this.
What is your background?
Environmental consultancy and teaching. An unusual combination, with the overall aim to get people to understand more about the natural environment, how incredible it is and how human activities can affect different environments, both positively and negatively. I’m a firm believer that a little bit of knowledge and a lot of appreciation can go a long way. The power of collective action (in a world of 7 billion) is immeasurable.
What would you class as success for learning on FreshWater Watch?
On every Citizen Science Leader day the key facts never fail to raise eyebrows, the discussion points always need more time and the enthusiasm and curiosity of your team members is infectious. Everybody comes away from the day having learnt about their own lives, as well as those around the world and how they may change in future. That’s a good starting point.
What would you say to HSBC employees thinking about becoming a CSL?
Just do it. It’s a unique opportunity to get involved with a pioneering citizen science programme, provided by your employer and will change the way you view all aspects of your life and how it touches the natural environment.
From your perspective, what is the best part of the CSL day?
The moments when the CSLs become their own leaders. For example, they start answering each other’s’ questions during learning sessions and giving each other hints during the outdoor activities. .
What have you learnt from your research into fresh water? What made you sit up and gasp?
It is amazing how much we can learn from very simple science. FreshWater Watch research is quick and easy to do, yet our team of scientists will be able to see patterns in freshwater systems and identify some of the causes of this, based on the work of ‘non-scientists’. By 2050, the urban population is set to almost double to 6.4 billion. How we provide these people with safe water, whilst protecting freshwater ecosystems is a huge challenge. The data collected as part of FreshWater Watch is important and everybody can play a role.