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  • GROW Observatory

Citizen Science: Living Soils, Growing Food

Learn about approaches to food growing that can help regenerate soil and solve environmental issues.

5,407 enrolled on this course

a pair of boots and various small plants growing in a field
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • Digital upgrade


Use regenerative growing practices in your own garden

Learn about the challenges facing our food and farming systems and solutions to overcome them. Explore key approaches to food growing that can regenerate soils and ecosystems. You’ll discover sustainable practices and will be guided through the steps to design your own growing experiments to assess how effective these are in your own space. This year the course also covers how to move from data to action, and will introduce you to participatory governance. We will offer practical information on how to create positive change in your garden, local area and beyond using citizen-generated data.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds SPEAKER: We’re facing serious environmental challenges and the increasing impacts of a changing climate. This course offers you the opportunity to join a Citizen’s Observatory in which you can learn and collaborate with like-minded people to observe and care for the environment. Two of the key challenges the GROW Citizens’ Observatory focuses on are soil degradation and adapting to a changing climate, both affected by unsustainable food growing methods. GROW is creating a community of small-scale farmers, growers, scientists, and policymakers all working together to help address these challenges and learn from each other. We know that soil degradation and unsustainable farming methods are serious issues across the world. What can we do about it?

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds 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. Some ways of growing food can help to reduce the rate of soil degradation and even reverse it to rebuild healthy soils and robust ecosystems. Adopting effective regenerative growing practises is critical to solving many local and global challenges. In this course, we explore some of these practises in more detail. We look at the existing scientific knowledge and invite you to share your own experiences and learn from other growers around the world. We will consider opportunities for balancing food production with nature and promoting sustainable food systems and diets.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds You will learn how to design and conduct your own experiments and carry out rigorous investigations in your own growing spaces and communities to help you discover what works well for you and your local area. How can you then move from data to discoveries and from discoveries to positive community and governance action on soils, food, and changing climate? Sign up for this GROW Citizen Science online course and join a community of soil champions.

What topics will you cover?

  • Challenges and opportunities facing global food systems
  • Citizen Science and Fieldwork
  • The GROW Observatory
  • Regenerative practices for food growers - exploring the effectiveness of approaches like mulching, no dig, cover crops, creating wildlife friendly areas and more
  • Identifying the steps to design your own robust research experiments to investigate the effectiveness of regenerative practices in your growing site

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...

  • Debate the challenges facing global food and farming systems and potential solutions
  • Identify regenerative practices that you could implement in your growing site, and learn how to evaluate them to improve your growing
  • Describe key research principles and their importance in designing robust growing experiments for your garden and your community
  • Become familiar with different types of soil nutrients and how to balance them in your soil
  • Reflect on how to move from data to positive action and take part in participatory governance opportunities
  • Explore key approaches to food growing that can ameliorate soil degradation and regenerate soils and ecosystems

Who is the course for?

This course has been designed 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, 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. You do not need any particular tools or resources to take part in the course, but we recommend you have access to some space for food growing. 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 neighbour’s garden who might be interested in learning more about soil and food growing 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 a shovel or a measuring tape. 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 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 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.

I work as a citizen science researcher at the James Hutton Institute. I enjoy growing and carrying out experiments on my small allotment plot. My future ambition is to research environmental hazards.

Citizen Science Designer and Facilitator for the GROW Observatory. Also busy writing up my PhD thesis on how soil biodiversity responds to land-use change. You can follow me on Twitter @SoilScholar.

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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