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Engaging with the Danube: Danube4all's Interactive Showcase at ECSA 2024 in Vienna

Guest post by Gabriela Costea (IGB, Berlin), Allison O'Reilly (BOKU, Vienna), Pippa de Kinder (IGB, Berlin), Camille Janssen (Pulsaqua), Helmut Habersack (BOKU, Vienna)

Amidst the vibrant atmosphere of the European Citizen Science Conference (ECSA) 2024, DANUBE4all showcased its novel approaches to participatory science and community engagement in the heart of Vienna earlier this month. Set against the backdrop of the Natural History Museum, the project 'public booth' invited visitors to delve into the rich tapestry of the Danube River and its surrounding ecosystem by quite literally 'getting their hands dirty'!

This ambitious endeavour sought to bridge the gap between scientific inquiry and public understanding, fostering a deeper connection between society and aquatic ecosystems under the motto of "Become a key contributor to a ground-breaking initiative!"

At the heart of our showcase were two interactive installations that captivated audiences of all ages. The first, an Interactive Stream Table, served as a modular and portable gateway into the intricate dynamics of river systems. Visitors eagerly engaged with the tactile display, gaining insights into the fluid dynamics, sediment transport and morpho dynamics that shape the Danube's course.

Participants enjoy the Interactive Stream Table. Photos courtesy of BOKU

This experience was complemented by our second installation - an Interactive Collaborative Puzzle Wall of the Danube River Basin. Piece by piece, visitors contributed to the evolving mosaic of the Danube, sharing their personal reflections, inquiries, and aspirations for the river's future. Through this collective effort, a vivid portrayal emerged, reflecting the diverse perspectives and profound connections that link local residents to the Danube's waters.

Slideshow 1-6 Participants bring their ideas to the Interactive Collaborative Puzzle Wall. Photos courtesy of BOKU

Almost 100 participants were inspired to contribute their ideas to the Puzzle Wall, affixing them to puzzle pieces that addressed three fundamental questions:

  1. What facts, issues, and stories about the Danube and its valley would you like to see in our upcoming exhibition?

  2. If given the opportunity to influence the management and conservation of the Danube, what changes would you prioritize?

  3. How do you prefer information to be presented in exhibitions? What engages you as you explore?

This event marked the inaugural step in a series of engagements under the banner "A Journey Through Ideas for a Blue Danube Exhibition". Future gatherings will extend this dialogue to communities along the upper, middle, and lower Danube, inviting input from aquatic researchers, museum experts, and the general public alike.

At its core, this co-creative and participatory approach embodies our commitment to fostering a better understanding of the Danube's significance for both nature protection and human social, economic and cultural development. By collecting diverse voices and perspectives, we aim to support a shared stewardship of our aquatic heritage, laying the groundwork for meaningful ecological restoration initiatives.

The fantastic DANUBE4all team at ECSA!

Picture 1 (l-r): Camille Janssen (Pulsaqua, Netherlands), Allison O'Reilly (BOKU, Vienna), Gabriela Costea (IGB, Berlin),

Picture 2 (l-r): Helmut Habersack (BOKU, Vienna), Gabriela Costea (IGB, Berlin), Allison O'Reilly (BOKU, Vienna), Pippa de Kinder (IGB, Berlin), Camille Janssen (Pulsaqua, Netherlands)

As we reflect on our experience at ECSA 2024, we are energized by the spirit of collaboration and discovery that was reflected in our interactions. Participants jointly embarked on an innovative journey to explore and understand the Danube’s assets. Higher awareness of those is paving the way for local development projects that harmonise nature preservation with sustainable socio-economic growth. Leverage of the natural gems and ecosystem services of the Danube provide various opportunities for win-win outcomes benefitting both the community and the environment. Motivated by ECSA 2024, we will continue to unlock the immense potential of citizen science, participatory approach and collective action.

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