Neighbourhood Biology: "on line" and "in the field" services about our local ecology

Mary Gardner

Throughout Aotearoa, more and more locals are taking the initiative about the state of the places near and dear to them. There are surprising gains made, both environmental and social. And more is yet to come.

Over the past few years of work in this area, we became aware of just what kind of assistance local people need in this work. First, with communications -- many locals work in isolation, unaware of what is being attempted or even accomplished from place to place. Second, with specialist information. How to set up monitoring and surveys? How to work as a group among the powers that be? How to make that positive difference?

Our "on line" and "in the field" services address these needs. Our website opens in Dec 97 offering new perspectives about local ecology, action research, contacts, a community news bulletin, an activity network, kids' stuff and more. ()

One of the "on line" features is a catchment homepage, specially for community projects on this ecological scale. The first profiled on the website is Blueskin Bay, just north of Dunedin. This coastal catchment is its own Neighbourhood Biology team: a full time community facilitator/oral historian and a group of science workers all working alongside locals in protecting and enhancing local places.

As our definition of catchment includes coastal shelves, we consider ocean places as well as terrestrial ones. Our community facilitator keeps a finger on the local pulse, compiles information and arranges meetings as varied abuses threaten. Already, a sensitive commercial/recreational fishing dilemma has come to an unexpected and quick resolution, largely because of the heightened local awareness and organized voice.

This is just one of the activities and benefits of the neighbourhood biology approach. We can show more examples and share our ideas concerning local people and coastal/ marine ecosystems. We see over and over again, locals CAN make all the difference. As specialists, we're committed to assisting them in this.

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