Dublin and Sligo students release ‘smart’ pebbles to track climate change impacts

Initiative part of €10m Score project funded by the European Commission
Image: Scott Webb/Pexels

27 September 2023

Primary and second-level students are this week placing 300 specially adapted RFID-enabled pebbles at Killiney Beach in Dublin and Raghly Beach in Sligo in a project to track coastal erosion. The project aims to strengthen coastal communities’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change using digital technologies.

Led by Dr Chiara Cocco and Dr Francesco Pilla, researchers with software research centre Lero based in UCD and Dr Iulia Anton from Atlantic Technological University Sligo, the ‘smart’ pebbles initiative is part of the €10 million Europe-wide project Score funded by the European Commission.

“This project is really exciting because we are collaborating with people of all ages – primary school students, transition year students and a local Tidy Towns group – and using innovative technologies to examine the impacts of climate change on their coastal communities. The students will play a key role in releasing and monitoring 300 adapted Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enabled pebbles over the coming months. Each ‘smart’ pebble, painted yellow and typically about 10cm in size, has a RFID transponder cemented into drilled holes, enabling us to trace the impacts of erosion and their movements over the coming months,” explained Dr Cocco, assistant professor at UCD.

Dr Anton, the project manager of the SCORE project, said: “Each pebble will be 3D scanned by the ‘search and rescue’ students, enabling the tracking of abrasions and markings. Then, we will be able to track the pebble’s movements using RFID readers and GPS locators. These citizen science results will be analysed in the lab utilising algorithms to determine climate change impacts on coastal erosion on the beach.

“We are thrilled to start this exciting initiative at Killiney and Raghly Beaches. Our collaboration with local schools, led by dedicated students, is pivotal in this activity. Their role in releasing and monitoring these pebbles, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, will provide invaluable insights into erosion patterns and movements. This citizen science initiative not only fosters environmental stewardship but also empowers the younger generation to engage in climate resilience efforts actively.”

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Sligo County Council are also part of this initiative, one of the winning projects of the Accelerator Programme promoted by the EU-funded Impetus project. Dalkey Tidy Towns is involved in the Killiney project in Dublin with Monkstown CBS, Rathdown School and Holy Child. In Sligo, Grange Post Primary School is actively participating in the Raghly Beach project. 

Dr Cocco said it is important to raise citizen awareness about climate risks in coastal urban areas.

“The project aims to actively involve younger people and empower them to become active participants in scientific activities related to climate risks,” she said.

TechCentral Reporters

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