By Jonathan Silvertown, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh
Which is your favourite park? If you live in Edinburgh, the city has 145 different parks for you to choose from. Maybe it is one of the many pocket-sized parks scattered across the city or perhaps it is the Pentland Hills Regional Park that supplies the city with water. All are managed by the City Of Edinburgh Council’s Parks, Greenspace and Cemeteries Service.
In September, we won a 15 month grant from Nesta to work with the Council to explore and develop new ways to use data and digital technologies to better understand how parks are used and valued by citizens, and how to engage park users in shaping the future of our parks. We will be working with local park managers and Park Friends Groups in Inverleith Park, Leith Links, The Meadows & Bruntsfield Links and Saughton Park - and our aim is to co-design and test a viable and relevant toolkit with the key people involved with these parks.
The plan for the ParkLife project is illustrated in the diagram. We shall use different kinds of sensors in the four test parks to count the people using them and to monitor bat activity. We are also examining the potential of social media to connect with park users in various ways. Data will be brought together on a dashboard on the web that will, for the first time, give park managers and users a comprehensive, real-time picture of park use. Ultimately, we expect this information to feed back into greater public appreciation and support for Edinburgh’s parks.
This is the first in what will be a series of regular blog posts from various members of the ParkLife project team that will cover all aspects of the project from data protection to biodiversity.