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Live better with biodiversity!

English title Live better with biodiversity!
Applicant Schaepman Michael E.
Number 171647
Funding scheme Agora
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Ecology
Start/End 01.02.2017 - 31.01.2021
Approved amount 176'244.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (4)

biodiversity; public outreach; global change; music festivals

Lay Summary (German)

Besser leben mit Biodiversität
Lay summary

“Besser leben mit Biodiversität” bringt Wissenschaftler die sich mit Biodiversität beschäftigen ins Gespräch mit der Bevölkerung. Es ermöglicht so den Austausch über die grosse Bedeutung, die Biodiversität für unserem Leben hat. Im Zentrum des Projekts steht eine Wanderzelt gefüllt mit mit interaktiven Elementen. Dank diesen Elementen können Wissenschaftler auf zugängliche Art über ihre Forschung und deren Bedeutung für den Alltag der Bevölkerung sprechen. Ein Kernaspekt des Projekts ist das professionelle Training in Öffentlichkeitskommunikation, welches die freiwilligen Forscher erhalten. Dieses Training legt besonderen Wert darauf, dass die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit genauso viel mit Teilen wie mit Lernen zu tun hat.

Die Hauptziele des Projekts sind erstens die schweizer Bevölkerung gegenüber den Themen Biodiversität, Klimawandel und Ökosystemdienstleistungen zu sensibilisieren, und zweitens die Bevölkerung zu animieren, im Interesse der Biodiversität zu handeln. Ebenso wichtig ist uns, das Zelt an untypische Anlässe, wie Konzerte oder Quartierfeste zu bringen, um auch Personen zu erreichen, die sonst wenig Kontakt zur Wissenschaft haben. Wir hoffen, dass der resultierende Dialog das Interesse der Bevölkerung an der Wissenschaft erhöht, das Wissen der Bevölkerung gegenüber der Funktionsweise der Wissenschaft vertieft sowie das Vertrauen in ebendiese stärkt. Wir hoffen natürlich auch, dass das Projekt die Forscher gegenüber ihrer Verantwortung sensibilisiert, die Interessen und Bedürfnisse der Allgemeinheit zu berücksichtigen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.02.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner


Few experts doubt that the conservation of biodiversity and protection of the ecosystem services that support human life on this planet should be a top societal priority. Especially as a third of the native species in Switzerland are currently under threat of extinction, the key question motivating this outreach project is: Why isn’t there more public interest and pressure to conserve biodiversity and preserve its vital life support systems? The project is based upon the idea that stimulating, meaningful, and personal communication between biodiversity scientists and the general public can generate awareness and willingness to act in a broad range of the Swiss public. The scientists in our project are an interdisciplinary team studying the influence of global changes such as climate and land use change on biodiversity. This team was awarded prestigious University Research Priority Program (URPP) funding in 2013, and their research program will continue through 2020. Research projects in this program take place across the globe, from the local Laegern forest and Zurich lake of Switzerland to the arctic Tundra in northern Siberia and tropical forests of Borneo. The findings of this team have great implications for our ability to understand and predict how a changing physical world effects the living beings it hosts. We feel strongly that our work is not for scientific journals alone. We want to share our insights with the public and learn from their responses.The methodology of our project is modeled after a traveling ecology roadshow called, “Sex & Bugs & Rock n’ Roll,” which was started in 2013 by the British Ecological Society (BES) in honor of its 100th anniversary and still tours today. This widely praised outreach project reaches a large and diverse audience during summer music festivals and measurably increases public interest in ecological issues. The keys to success in the British project are professional training in science communication for the scientist volunteers and a focus on informal, portable interactive challenges or demonstrations (known as “busks”) as the main vehicles for starting interactions with visitors. These features will also be cornerstones of our outreach project. Our scientists will invite visitors to try activities such as identifying various types of fungi by their scent and matching an array of Swiss animals to modeled samples of their scat. These informal interactions then act as a gateway for talking about scientific topics such as the important roles of fungi in our ecosystems and how evidence such as scat can be used to study animal habits and health. We think that the rich one-on-one conversations between the public and scientists that will take place in our events will deepen the awareness and concern of the Swiss general public on the subjects of biodiversity and global change. It will also make a lasting impression on the scientists about their responsibility to make their research relevant to the public.Our team of expertise is comprised of the director of the University of Zurich’s University Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiversity (URPP GCB), the project leader of the BES model project, and a science education and public outreach specialist. Project advisors include a professional science communication trainer, 3 directors of science outreach centers and museums in Zurich, and top Swiss biodiversity scientists. The project will run for 36 months from February 2017 until January 2020 and follow a year-long cycle in which each year a group of around 20 URPP GCB scientists receive training in innovative public outreach techniques in the spring, conduct 1 to 2 outreach events per month in the summer and early fall, then reflect upon their experiences and revise the model in late fall. Our venues will include traditional outreach sites such as zoos and museums and less typical venues such as community events, music festivals, and school visits. The interactive activities and educational support materials we develop will be used during and after our project by the two school outreach science labs at the University of Zurich, as well as by the World Wildlife Fund Zurich for their school visitation program. The project will be run in German and English.