Next event:
ERINN SAVAGE – Performance
Tomorrow 15:00 GMT

The bigger picture kit consists of a river sampling kit that allows the user to take water samples from their local rivers; and a microplastics analysis kit that allows them to test this sample for plastics. Freshwater environments vary greatly ,due to human and non-human influence and because of this so too do the citizen access points, It was essential that the kit could be used safely resulting in the development of a bridge and bank deploying method. The materials were chosen using CES analysis thus minimise the negative social and environmental impact of the materials and manufacture, coupled with a renting business model, creates a sustainable product.

I started this project by looking into how societies and individuals interact and relate to rivers as an example of our unbalanced relationships with ecological systems. I choose this example due to the breadth and depth at which rivers have and do cross through societies. My research developed into gaining an understanding of how river health is defined, measured and the current threats to freshwater ecology. I found through a range of interviews, river visits and literature that comparison of rivers under analysis to rivers (or models) unaffected by human interaction is essential to understanding river health (Milne. Ian, SEPA, 2019, Karr, 1999). Also, that as other pollution levels are decreasing micro-plastics pollution has been increasing at an alarming rate within rivers having a deadly impact on the freshwater ecosystem of which the extent is not known.

The first iteration of prototypes was based on the manta net/trawl - a method of allowing river water to pass through netting to capture both fragments and fibres - commonly used to sample microplastics in freshwater. The popularity of this method is evident - a 2017 paper reviewing microplastic freshwater systems sampling methods reported 50% use (Li et al., 2018). This however did not pick up plastics in part due to the resistance of the net and the structure in the water, which led to the idea generation and testing of a pump that would pull the water up faster than the speed of the flow therefore removing the resistance and positive hydraulic pressure within the inlet. When samples where analysed it was seen that there was plastic suspended in the sediment.

I performed lab analysis of the river samples taken using prototypes to ensure the scientific weight of the data collected and to test the user experience of analysis. The results from this were shocking, even after reading round the issue and having an understanding of the problem, testing local rivers that I have an emotional connection with was deeply upsetting. Finding an abundance of micro and nano plastics in a rural glen with no settlements in the river basin suggests that these plastics are well established in the water system while a test in the River Kelvin (results above) show the dramatic existent of the pollution.

The ergonomic aspects (anthropometrics, physiology and psychology) of the design were considered in detail through out the design to ensure that the whole user journey of this citizen science kit and surrounding system where safe, enjoyable and fulfilling to the users. These aspects where tested through interviews and prototype tests such as the one seen above where the kit was taken to Curiosity Live in the Glasgow Science Centre an event attended by 500 school children where it received positive feedback and enthusiastic engagement from students and teachers.