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Article

Learning Science during Teatime: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Collect Data on Litter Decomposition in Sweden and Austria

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Department for Soil Health and Plant Nutrition, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Spargelfeldstrasse 191, 1220 Vienna, Austria
2
Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), P.O. Box 115, 1431 Ås, Norway
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Faculty of Environmental Science and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Science (NMBU), Fougnerbakken 3, 1432 Ås, Norway
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Department for Data Management, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Spargelfeldstrasse 191, 1220 Vienna, Austria
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Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, Tvistevägen 48, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden
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Ecology & Biodiversity Group and Plant Ecophysiology Group, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7745; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187745
Received: 2 September 2020 / Revised: 17 September 2020 / Accepted: 17 September 2020 / Published: 18 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Collection Science Education Promoting Sustainability)
The decay of organic material—litter decomposition—is a critical process for life on Earth and an essential part of the global carbon cycle. Yet, this basic process remains unknown to many citizens. The Tea Bag Index (TBI) measures decomposition in a standardized, measurable, achievable, climate-relevant, and time-relevant way by burying commercial tea bags in soil for three months and calculating proxies to characterize the decomposition process (expressed as decomposition rate (k) and stabilization factor (S)). We measured TBI at 8 cm soil depth with the help of school and farm citizen scientists in 2015 in Sweden and in 2016 in Austria. Questionnaires to the participating schools and farms enabled us to capture lessons learned from this participatory data collection. In total >5500 citizen scientists participated in the mass experiments, and approximately 50% of the tea bags sent out yielded successful results that fell well within previously reported ranges. The average decomposition rates (k) ranged from 0.008 to 0.012 g d−1 in Sweden and from 0.012 to 0.015 g d−1 in Austria. Stabilization factors (S) were up to four times higher in Sweden than Austria. Taking part in a global experiment was a great incentive for participants, and in future experiments the citizen scientists and TBI would benefit from having enhanced communication between the researchers and participants about the results gained. View Full-Text
Keywords: Tea Bag Index (TBI); participatory research; hands-on science experience; citizen scientists’ motivation Tea Bag Index (TBI); participatory research; hands-on science experience; citizen scientists’ motivation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Sandén, T.; Spiegel, H.; Wenng, H.; Schwarz, M.; Sarneel, J.M. Learning Science during Teatime: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Collect Data on Litter Decomposition in Sweden and Austria. Sustainability 2020, 12, 7745. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187745

AMA Style

Sandén T, Spiegel H, Wenng H, Schwarz M, Sarneel JM. Learning Science during Teatime: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Collect Data on Litter Decomposition in Sweden and Austria. Sustainability. 2020; 12(18):7745. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187745

Chicago/Turabian Style

Sandén, Taru, Heide Spiegel, Hannah Wenng, Michael Schwarz, and Judith M. Sarneel 2020. "Learning Science during Teatime: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Collect Data on Litter Decomposition in Sweden and Austria" Sustainability 12, no. 18: 7745. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187745

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