Recently, a colleague of mine from Wilfred Laurier University has started a website with some colleagues called RinkWatch (http://rinkwatch.org/). The website is designed to track climate-change by keeping tabs on local community ice rink(s). This innovative use of Citizen Science is getting quite a bit of buzz up in Canada, but the idea has implications for any country with a culture of outdoor skating rinks. It is also a great way to get the public involved in the climate debate, and science in general! RinkWatch received a mention in the Canadian Association of Geographers’ Mailing list, which I’m posting here to help spread the good word. You can also check out the full story and video here.
The site, created by a group of geographers at Wilfred Laurier University, invites people to register online and record the state of their homemade ice surfaces. Researchers will use the data - when the flooding is done, how many weeks the ice is useable - to track the progression of climate change. According to Robert McLeman, one of the project’s creators, it’s also a chance to educate Canadians about the real-world implications of climate change, an issue that can seem abstract when discussed on TV or in the classroom. “People appreciate the scale of the problem, but don’t understand personally how it fits in with their life,” McLeman, an associate professor of geography and environmental science, told CBC Hamilton. “We thought this sort of provides an opportunity to connect people to environmental research literally through their own backyards.” He said the website, which has already registered 375 rinks across Canada and the northern U.S., has spawned some unintended, but very welcome uses. Participants, he said, are sharing ice-making tips with each other, creating a richer, more interactive online community than he’d anticipated. “People who are coming to it really just are passionate.”