Festival of Nature 2018

On Saturday June 2nd, Ioanna Stamataki and Olivia Cooke joined the WEIR (Water Environment and Infrastructure Resilience) research group of the Water Innovation Research Centre (WIRC) at the Festival of Nature in Bath. The Festival of Nature is celebrating it’s 15th anniversary, and this year it gave the opportunity for local families to explore hands-on activities in Green Park in Bath; a heritage park by the river. Continue reading to hear what Ioanna and Olivia said about the day:

‘Overall, the day was a huge success! The audience was diverse with scientist enthusiasts of all ages, from the very young to the old, and there were enough activities to capture everyone’s interest. In general, the themes were related to flood and catchment management and river microbiology.

In the morning, our group had a stand with three different activities for the kids:
1. A flood management box taught children the important role that natural landscaping and geology plays in the assimilation capacity of a catchment and their contribution in flood prevention. This was shown by creating rain at the top of the catchment and allowing the water to travel downstream. The river would breach its banks and the kids had to place LEGO characters around the box where they thought they would be safe from the flood. The experiment was repeated by alternating the upstream conditions from impermeable hills to sponges that represented porous vegetation and demonstrate thus the different effects they had on the downstream part of the catchment. Have a look at these two videos here: flood management box with hills and flood management box with sponges.

2. An underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) which the kids could pilot themselves around a tank filled with water from the Avon River. Underwater remotely-operated robots are used as inspection tools to investigate the underwater environment, for discovering or studying species but also for checking on equipment from a boat or a river’s banks. ROV’s can also be fitted with sensors and sampling devices which can be used for various research including collecting water samples.

3. Use of microscopes to see “What lives in a drop of water?”. The participants were introduced to freshwater microbiology by using handheld microscopes to look at the zooplankton that can found in river water. There were quite a variety of plankton discovered under the microscopes by the children from a tiny water snail, to bloodworms to looking at the eye of a microscopic fish found in the water from the River Avon.’

In the evening, the group also took part at the Festival of Nature’s Pop-up Wildlife Party where we presented an Augmented Reality Sandbox (AR Sandbox)! The augmented reality sandbox was developed by UC Davis W.M. Keck Centre for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences and supported by the National Science Foundation. The sand box gives the opportunity to create an alive map. By moulding the sand, the landscape comes to life by projecting an elevation colour map, topographic contour lines, and if you dig deep enough, water! During the Festival of Nature, the participants were also encouraged to recreate a scale model of the River Avon, in order to show its impact on the shape of Bath today. This activity was orchestrated also as part of the River is the Venue (RiV) project. Check out a video here. 

Adapting our research to simplified activities/games and communicating the core messages to different audiences is unique and an important quality to learn. The Festival of Nature 2018 was an irreplaceable experience for all of us!