Citizen science recovering volcanic farmlands

An Indonesian initiative is putting science—and the laboratory—into the hands of communities; combining the arts, science, and technology with some basic science lessons for the general public.

In 2014, the HackteriaLab gathering in Yogyakarta brought 40 scientists, artists, and academics together for two weeks to work on existing local community projects.

The three main focusses were: environmental monitoring of rivers in Jogja, working with ‘citizen initiative’ group Lifepatch and the Jogja River Project; biodiversity conservation in Wonosadi Forest with the green technology community; and bio-recovery of Mount Merapi volcanic soil, with the microbiologist community of Universitas Gadjah Mada— where the seminar was hosted.

The volcano Mount Merapi has erupted twice in the past 10 years, destroying local farmlands.

“Scientists in the area had been working with these local farmers to help speed up the fertility of the soil with bio-recovery methods. We invited the participants to help with this work, and encouraged them to look into generic lab equipment, and new methods and ideas that could help the scientists,” says Andreas Siagian, Co-Director of the 2014 HacketriaLab.

Other projects included the creation of a DIY microscope webcam; a DIY 3D printing machine; plant tissue culturing and cloning; and mechanical sculpturing.

The Victor Chang Institute in Sydney donated supplies and supported the attendance of Dr Matt Baker, who helped with teaching and running some of the projects.

Hackteria has members in India, Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia, and their efforts at bringing scientific knowledge in the community have been recorded in a documentary and book.