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  • GROW Observatory

Citizen Science: Sensing the World

Learn about soil sensing, earth observation and citizen science with the GROW Citizens' Observatory.

2,203 enrolled on this course

Illustration of a sensor in soil
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Digital upgrade


Discover the world through citizen science, earth observation and open soil data

Did you know satellites are constantly monitoring soil moisture, even in your garden? Monitoring the moisture in soil can help predict floods, fires and droughts.

On this course, you will learn about the ESA’s Sentinel-1 Missions, and how citizen scientists collaborating with GROW are helping validate satellite data locally with sensors.

You’ll discover sensing, and become part of the GROW Citizen Observatory. You will collaborate with other growers and scientists to learn about soil sensors and make sense of soil data to improve your growing practice.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds We are facing serious environmental challenges and the increasing impacts of a change in climate. GROW offers you the opportunity to join a global observatory in which thousands of people will collaborate to observe and care for the environment. Two of the key challenges GROW focuses on are soil degradation and the impact of a changing climate, both impacted by unsustainable food growing methods. Grow is creating a community of growers, small-scale farmers, scientists, and policymakers, all working together to help address these challenges and learn from each other. This community of citizen scientists will help space science by providing vital ground data to validate the research undertaken by satellites.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds The shared vision is to support and build sustainable custodianship of the land and soil across Europe. Soil is vital to our future, but it is a threatened resource. There is an urgent need to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices. This data can also inform international policy decisions on land use, soil management, and climate change as well as supporting growers in different countries to share, discover, and test sustainable soil stewardship and growing practises. Whether you are a new or a more experienced grower, or a citizen scientist, you can learn to gather and make sense of data for yourself. Together, we will have opportunities to take part in more complex observations and experiments in the coming weeks and months.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds You will learn about climate monitoring from space via satellites, and from the ground by using hand-held and soil sensors. What do sensors used by citizen scientists have to do with orbiting satellites, and how can they be used to predict floods, droughts, and fires? You will find out how satellite data can assist us in understanding the conditions of our soils. And how, in turn, people like us can generate soil data to effect change in our gardens, growing sites, and local areas. We will explore how Earth observation, soil moisture, and DIY soil sensors can help us improve food growing practises and monitor climate change and soil health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds Sign up for this GROW Citizen Science online course and join a community of soil champions.

What topics will you cover?

  • Earth Observation
  • Citizen science
  • Climate monitoring and a soil moisture
  • Satellites
  • Soil sensors and DIY sensors
  • Open data and open technology
  • Remote sensing
  • The GROW Observatory

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Investigate the relationship between climate monitoring, remote sensing and Earth Observation
  • Explore how soil sensors can be used to improve your food growing and soil health
  • Discuss the potential of participatory culture, citizen sensing and citizen science
  • Identify the relationship between European Space Agency’s satellites and low cost soil sensors, and how they can help us predict floods, droughts, fires and the changing climate’s impact on food production.
  • Engage with basic technical information about soil sensors (both commercial and DIY), their limitations and their potential

Who is the course for?

This course has been created for anyone interested in any of the following subjects: soil, climate, technology, satellites, food growing and the environment. You don’t need any special experience, however, it might be of particular interest to: small farmers, community and urban growers, gardeners, land managers and allotment growers as people interested in climate monitoring, sensing, social innovation and space science, technology enthusiasts and teachers in science and environment-related subjects. This course brings together people who love soil with people who love data.

What software or tools do you need?

You won’t need any specific equipment to participate in this course. This course will help you to learn more about soil sensors, so you may wish to try one out if you have one, but this is not required.

Who will you learn with?

I’m passionate about the incredible things that happen when people come together to make change. I am inspired by the idea of a global citizens’ observatory.
GROW Project Lead & Chancellors Fellow

Andy Cobley is a senior lecturer at the school of Science and Engineering at the University of Dundee. He is the program director for the MSc programs in Data Science and Data Engineering.

I am a Researcher at University of Dundee working on the H2020 WeObserve Project. My research interests include food policy, sustainable food systems, food & farming cooperatives and agroecology.

Currently PhD student at the Vienna University of Technology.
Previously Visiting student at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology - KAUST (Saudi Arabia).
MSc at the University of Milan

I am a geographer and soil scientist. Fascinated with the complex interdependence of landscape elements. Mapping, field work, data generation and interpretation are the fields I am most interested in.

Mel is Professor in Creative Intelligence at University of Dundee. Her research focuses on designing to support people with future technologies, societal and environmental challenges and change-making

Who developed the course?

University of Dundee

The University of Dundee is one of the world’s Top 200 universities and was named Scottish University of the Year for both 2016 and 2017. Dundee offers one of the UK’s best student experiences.

GROW Observatory

GROW engages thousands of growers, scientists and others passionate about the land to learn about soils and growing food, while contributing to vital scientific environmental monitoring.

What's included?

University of Dundee are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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