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Researcher spotlight: Macarena Cárdenas

Macarena L. Cárdenas is a Research Manager within the Science, Policy and Innovation team at Earthwatch Europe. She's a member of the team behind the Sustainability Special Issue edited by Earthwatch Europe and the Impact Report that summarises a complex programme of international research into nature-based solutions and the opportunities of citizen science. We spoke to her about her work and her hopes for the planet.

What do you do? 

My work focuses on the understanding and application of urban sustainability through nature-based solutions and social awareness and engagement. My role is to develop the methods and research that include data collection through citizen science. This is a complex yet rich task, since it means simplifying scientific traditional methods so anyone, of any age, is capable of collecting scientifically sound environmental data in the field around nature-based solutions, at the same time that they learn and enjoy the process.

My research work also includes being in the field for data collection, developing online platforms for data reporting and public engagement, as well as training on environmental issues to a wide array of audiences including the corporate and general public.

Finally, my aim with the research is to gather evidence of the best practices for nature-based solutions management in urban areas, for building urban resilience and sustainability and raising awareness amongst the community and corporate by producing peer-reviewed publications, reports and policy brief.

What do you think is the most important thing people can do for the future of the planet?

We are certainly overwhelmed with the current health and climatic challenges of the world. The burden of our actions feels too big, and no one single person can remediate it all, but we can all together. I think that the best thing people can do for the planet right now is to find and commit to one environmentally sustainable practice that they are not currently doing, and talk about it with others, in our communities, jobs, and media. I believe this can cause not just a ripple effect that will spread it to others, but it will also create a positive feedback towards ourselves encouraging us to do more, little by little, all together.

What is the one thing that gives you hope about the future of the planet?

It gives me hope to see a wide range of people getting involved in the discussion and demands towards a more sustainable future, but especially to see the strong and powerful movement of the young community around the world. These young minds bring fresh ideas, with the needed energy to make positive changes happen.

What does citizen science mean to you?

Citizen science is the democratisation of science, it is learning in community, it is capacity building, it is sharing. By raising awareness amongst everyone, sharing skills, and building knowledge, this method of research facilitates reaching our positive environmental and knowledge goals faster and effectively.

How can scientific research impact the future of the planet?

Practicing and sharing scientific research that addresses the key environmental and social challenges in an inclusive and engaging way, will have a positive impact for the future of the planet. Including the community, the corporates, educators and the government in the process of knowledge-building, using inclusive methods such as using citizen science, sharing learnings in a way that is accessible to everyone and anywhere, and very importantly, engaging the government in making use of what has been learned, will support moving towards a better future.


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