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  • GROW Observatory

Citizen Science: From Soil to Sky

Learn how to understand your soil and explore global environmental soil issues by becoming a citizen scientist.

8,739 enrolled on this course

plants growing in soil and a satellite in the sky above them
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • Digital upgrade


Become a citizen scientist and help improve your soil and the environment

Where can you find all sorts of useful and important information about your environment? You might be surprised to know it’s beneath your feet, in the soil. On this course you will discover interesting things about your own soil and become part of the new GROW Citizen Observatory European-wide community. You will collaborate with other growers and scientists to discover the impact global soil practices have on major issues like the environment and food growing.

Now is the time to make a difference, join us, improve your soil and become a citizen scientist!

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds SPEAKER 1: Soil underpins life. 97% of our food comes from soils, and soil is essential to our ecosystems and to many of the clothes we wear, our furniture, and even new genetic discoveries. Soil is vital to our future, but it is a threatened resource. If current rates of degradation continue, all of the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years according to the UNFAO. There is an urgent need to adopt more sustainable agricultural practises. We invite you to be among the very first people to take part in the GROW Observatory. Our first online course will introduce you to growers in different countries to share, learn, and test best soil stewardship and growing practises.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds Whether you’re a new or experienced grower, you can learn to take and make sense of data on your soil. Together, we will gradually take part in more complex experiments in the coming weeks and months.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds How are these soil issues affecting your local area and your plants?

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds What can you do to help science monitor soil health? And how can you improve the health of your soil?

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds You will learn how readily accessible science can help us understand and improve our soils and growing and how, in turn, people like us can together contribute vital data to science to equipt society to better adapt to climate change. You will compare different methods and approaches with your own. Together with other growers, you will explore how local action can contribute to alleviating some of these global threats to soils. Sign up for the first GROW Observations and online course and join a community of soil champions.

What topics will you cover?

  • Citizen Science and Fieldwork
  • Soils, Growing Sites and Plant Health
  • Climate, Temperature and Moisture
  • Landscape Representivity and Cover
  • Soil Components
  • Global Challenges for Soil
  • Regenerative Techniques
  • Landscape Ecosystems
  • The GROW Observatory app

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...

  • Describe the type of soil you have, including details such as soil texture and stone content
  • Explore how soil health influences plant growth and the environment
  • Compare different approaches to growing food, and how these impact soil health and plant productivity
  • Apply knowledge of your own growing space to how it connects to the wider landscape and global soil trends
  • Describe key characteristics of your growing site, such as canopy cover and land cover
  • Explore how you can become a citizen scientist to monitor and improve soil health

Who is the course for?

This course has been created for anyone interested in the environment. You don’t need any special experience but it might be of interest to small farmers, community and urban growers, gardeners, land managers and allotment growers, and teachers in environment-related subjects.

What software or tools do you need?

As part of the course you will have the opportunity to join the new GROW Citizen Observatory and learn how take measurements of different aspects of growing sites and soil. If you do not have access to a garden or growing site, you are encouraged to identify a plot of land (it does not have to be big) in which you can carry out the activities, this could be your local community garden or farm, or maybe a neighbours’ garden who might be interested in learning more about soil with you.

You won’t require any special equipment for this course. For some of the activities you will need easily available tools such as glass jars or garden poles. All the tools required will be detailed in the relevant sections of the course.

Who will you learn with?

I am a plant ecologist with a passion for plant communities, which I enjoy applying to food growing. I work as a Senior Researcher in Agroecology at the Permaculture Association (Britain).

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

I'm a research scholar at IIASA, interested in participatory approaches to science and understanding systems, currently playing serious games and working on several EU citizen science projects.

I am an agriculturalist (PhD soil science). I research soil management for improved plant (grains, potatoes, horticulture) production and environmental protection. I have taught soils at all levels.

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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