Engaging communities in research is hugely important, particularly when it comes to issues that are steeped in tradition such as the management of peatlands. Insight’s Niall Ó Brolcháin writes about his experience of talking at the Eco Showboat’s Umbrella Academy:
In May of this year I represented the EU Interreg Care Peat project at the Umbrella Academy, an Eco Showboat event in Portumna. I wanted to discuss peatland policy with an eclectic mix of artists, ecologists, academics, public servants, farmers activists and others.
You may have heard of the Eco Showboat (namely the Mayfly). It is a community-based arts project based on a sailing boat powered by renewable energy travelling around the waterways of Ireland. It brings people together with the aim of showcasing technology, arts, science and ecology in order to create and provoke conversation and discussions.
I am interested in evidence-based policy development, using big data and data analytics to create decision support tools for multi-stakeholder co-creation of policies so this was a great opportunity to connect with people.
While many people in the audience wanted to see peatlands restored, others wanted to ensure that their right to cut turf is not threatened. Others want to use rewetted peatlands to grow willows.
My talk focused on discussing the opportunities that peatland restoration offers to local communities and exploring ways that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions enormously by learning to live with restored peatlands. We discussed the opportunities presented by carbon farming, paludiculture (wetland farming) and developing ecosystem services.