Communicating the transformative power of soils through citizen science, satellite validation and data art

Drew Hemment, Mel Woods, Raquel Ajates

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


How can local citizen-generated soil sensor data can have a global transformative impact in the food system and climate action? Soils maintain life on earth, but are a threatened resource being degraded at an alarming rate. Additionally, soil moisture plays an important role in regulating climate and predicting extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, which have socio-economic, public safety and environmental effects. In order to deal with the aforementioned issues, we need to enhance the accuracy of climate forecast information, and the knowledge accessible to practitioners. This paper reports on GROW Citizens’ Observatory’s efforts to validate Sentinel-1 satellites and to generate dynamic soil moisture maps through citizen science. Continuous estimations of soil moisture are generated through modelling over the regions in which GROW participants have installed thousands of sensors. The information is visualised through data exploration and design. These maps can help growers benefit from crowdsourced data, and support policymakers to be better informed when making decisions about environmental policies, (e.g. targeted investments to prevent desertification or floods). Furthermore, in order to communicate the observatory’s findings to a wider audience, GROW has commissioned an online networked digital artwork that draws on data from soil sensors. The artwork, By the Code of Soil, generates unique, audio-visual manifestations that appear on participants’ computers whenever the land-mapping satellite Sentinel-1A passes overhead. Through spontaneous interruptions to daily life, it connects audiences to these invisible processes and systems, inviting us to acknowledge and reflect on our relationship with soils.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019
EventTransformations 2019: Learning from Transformative Action and Thinking - University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
Duration: 16 Oct 201918 Oct 2019


ConferenceTransformations 2019
Internet address


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