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A project launched from the School of Geography and Environmental Science is working to empower young people around the world in climate change adaptation.

Teaching young people skills to change their behaviour to help mitigate some of the effects of climate change is at the centre of the More than Maps project.

Dr Sien van der Plank, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Economic, Social and Political Science, has been leading the project with Jadu Dash, Professor in Remote Sensing within the School of Geography and Environmental Science.

Sien explained the premise of the project: “Climate change adaptation means altering our behaviour, systems and potentially ways of life, to protect our families, economies and the environment in which we live from the impacts of climate change. More than Maps designs and delivers workshops to share open-access skills in mapping and social science analysis, empowering young people to be part of climate change adaptation discussions and action.”

The project launched in September 2020, funded by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences. It engaged 30 A-level students from across the UK in a two-part online workshop series. The workshops were the product of a collaboration between PhD students, early career researchers and established researchers across social and physical science disciplines.

“The initial workshops in the UK focused on a case study of Sargassum seaweed influxes being experienced in the Caribbean and West Africa since 2011, and included the detection of seaweed using a freely available mapping tool called Google Earth Engine, as well as studying the stakeholders in the management of the seaweed through a stakeholder analysis,” said Sien. “We worked with students from four schools, engaging sixth-form students in learning about the elements of computer programming required to use Google Earth Engine, and how to apply a basic framework to assess stakeholders in an environmental context.”

The feedback from students and teachers was very positive, with one student commenting at the close of the workshops: “I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and learnt a lot! I loved that the two sessions covered different yet closely related topics.”

The success of the project led to its expansion. Firstly, to a longer-term project supported by seed funding from the Public Engagement with Research unit to engage wider audiences and develop additional workshop materials. Then secondly, from April 2021, the team was successful in winning funding from the British Council’s Seasons programme. The network has grown to include researchers at the Mona Geoinformatics Institute in Jamaica, the University of Ghana, the University of Western Australia and the University of Sydney.

Sien explained: “We worked with colleagues at these institutions to widen the reach and engage with more young people in the UK, Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, Ghana, and Australia. This particular collaborative group came about because of existing and past research relationships, but also just reaching out and pitching our idea to other coastal adaptation researchers.

“The aim was to share reproducible and openaccess skills in mapping and social science analysis as to inspire young people in climate change adaptation worldwide.”

The timing of COP26 fitted well with the project’s progression. The team secured another tranche of funding from the British Council and UK/Australia Seasons 2021-22, which meant it could roll out the workshops in Australia and the UK to coincide with COP26 in Glasgow and in Ghana and Jamaica just after.

“We had a definitive list of key learning outcomes we wanted to achieve across our international workshop cohort, particularly because we are keen to continue the roll out and build on its success,” said Sien. “We ensured all participants were exposed to a case study on climate change adaptation or hazard mitigation, they undertook coding in basic JavaScript, learnt about social data analysis using social sciences frameworks for future research or adaptation, covered a case study of policy making in small islands and developing states and all had an Extended Project Qualification opportunity such as further researcher-student interaction.”

In a year, the More Than Maps team has grown from three researchers based at Southampton to 12 researchers based in four countries. It has so far benefitted more than 200 people via its workshops and it continues to gain traction.

The team has hosted a workshop for other researchers about the process and is planning to write a paper about the More than Maps approach and impacts. The framework can be easily adapted to include other research topics and geographic areas. This year and beyond Jadu, Sien and their colleagues will be looking for new internal and external researchers to collaborate with, further funding to support the project, and developing online-specific content so learners can access the materials at a time and place convenient to them.

Find out more www.morethanmaps.sartrac.org

More than Maps participants and workshop leaders at the University of Ghana