Maryhill Schoolchildren Become ‘Citizen Scientists’ for the Day to Tackle Litter on the Forth & Clyde Canal

Schoolchildren from St Charles Primary School in Maryhill donned high vis jackets and gloves and picked up scales, buckets and bird identification sheets today (Thursday 5th February) as they embarked on an innovative new science-based project tackling litter on the Forth & Clyde Canal in Glasgow.

The Primary Four and Five schoolchildren from St Charles Primary School became ‘Citizen Scientists’ for the morning as part of Scottish Waterway Trust’s Cleaner Canal Science project designed to take a scientific approach to challenging littering and flytipping behaviour on the historic waterway.

Through the three month Cleaner Canal Science project, which has been funded by a £46,040 grant from the Zero Waste Scotland Litter & Flytipping Innovation Fund, Scottish Waterways Trust will work with the Glasgow Science Festival (University of Glasgow) and schoolchildren, local businesses and community groups to develop a new scientific approach to analysing litter.

Through the project, it is hoped that everyone will gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of local littering, its direct impact on waterway wildlife and their own responsibilities.

Working with the team from Glasgow Science Festival today, the schoolchildren began the project by spotting and sampling litter on the canal in the same way as a biologist would carry out a wildlife survey, recording ‘species’ of litter they found.

Over the next few months, the schoolchildren from St Charles Primary School and St Mary’s Primary School in Maryhill and Kilbowie Primary School in Clydebank will join local businesses and community volunteers for citizen scientist sessions onboard a floating classroom barge.

Afloat the Cleaner Canal Science barge, the budding scientists will work with the project co-ordinator and the Glasgow Science Festival team learning how to record and analyse the source and type of rubbish they find and its impact on the environment and habitats of the waterway.

All the citizen scientists will then write up their findings in a report, which will then feed into a comprehensive study created in conjunction with the Glasgow Science Festival (University of Glasgow), Zero Waste Scotland, SEPA and Scottish Canals.

This is really imaginative project, which Zero Waste Scotland is pleased to support, aiming to engage young people in using scientific methods and at the same time helping them to see the impact of litter in their area. Litter has many negative impacts on communities and habitats across Scotland, and we need as much involvement from young people as possible in helping to tackle the problem.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland

As part of the project, the schools will also work with an artist, using some of the litter they have collected to make a piece of art sculpture which will go on display onboard the travelling barge.

It is hoped that the new citizen science model created by the Cleaner Canal Science project will be replicable across the country and will, over time, lead to a longer term and more sustainable effect on behaviour and the prevention of litter.

Businesses involved include Tesco in Maryhill and Asda and McDonalds in Clydebank. Community groups include Lambhill Stables and Friends of Possilpark.

Tracey Peedle, Development Director at Scottish Waterways Trust, explains: “Littering and flytipping has a negative effect upon Scotland’s canals, polluting our beautiful waterways and posing a threat to local wildlife. Our previous projects challenging littering behaviour have proved very successful; in the past year alone volunteers have spent 76 days helping clear our canals of litter and debris.

“We are delighted to be able to work with Glasgow Science Festival (University of Glasgow), Zero Waste Scotland, SEPA and Scottish Canals on this exciting and innovative new project. The project aims not only to connect with local communities in the way that previous projects have but also to create a pioneering new model which can used all over the country to better understand and, in turn, challenge the problem of litter.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “This is really imaginative project, which Zero Waste Scotland is pleased to support, aiming to engage young people in using scientific methods and at the same time helping them to see the impact of litter in their area.  Litter has many negative impacts on communities and habitats across Scotland, and we need as much involvement from young people as possible in helping to tackle the problem.”

Dr Deborah McNeill, Director of Glasgow Science Festival added: “By applying the same principles a biologist would use for wildlife surveys to litter surveys, we’re tackling the issue of waste management in an exciting new way.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to engage the whole community – from local children and community groups to businesses – in hands-on, collaborative science.  Only by working together will we achieve our aim of making the environment a better place for everyone. We look forward to working closely with Scottish Waterways Trust and partners over the coming months.”

Olivia Lassiere, Heritage and Environmental Manager at Scottish Canals, concluded: “Scotland’s canals are special places that are home to a diverse range of habitats and wildlife. Whilst the vast majority of the millions of visitors who come to the waterways each year use them responsibly, a minority engages in littering and this can have damaging effects on the environment, their wildlife and habitats.

“We’re delighted to support this innovative project which, with the help of the local community and our partners, will help us to better understand and reduce littering on Scotland’s canals, decrease the risks posed to wildlife, contribute to Scotland’s Zero Waste Strategy and safeguard the unique environmental resources of the waterways for everyone to enjoy.”

Issued on behalf of Scottish Waterways Trust

Notes to Editors

Scottish Waterways Trust (SWT)

  • SWT creates brighter futures for people, wildlife and communities along Scotland’s canals
  • By connecting people with the heritage, wildlife and green open spaces of the Scottish canals, SWT inspires people to get active, improve their health and mental well-being, employment prospects and community life.
  • • These projects, which connect people with the built, natural and cultural heritage of the canals, help people make positive changes to their life whilst also improving and enhancing their canalside environment.

Scottish Canals

  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland Canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands, together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness
  • Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan Canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visitations per year.

Glasgow Science Festival (GSF)

  • GSF engages people of all ages and backgrounds with science, through innovative events in non-traditional venues.
  • The main Glasgow Science Festival runs every June and reaches 40-50,000 people in venues across the city.
  • GSF allows the public to explore everything from astronomy to zoology, through shows, hands-on activities, family days, film, art, exhibitions, comedy and more.
  • By taking science out of the laboratory and into the city GSF provides a platform for scientists to showcase their research in the West of Scotland.
  • In addition to the main event in June, GSF delivers a number of community-science based projects throughout the year as well as public engagement skills-training and support for researchers.

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