School pupils and scientists will be turning 27km of Edinburgh’s coastline into a living laboratory as part of an innovative environmental project which has been awarded almost £40,000 funding from NERC, the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences.

The project, being led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s (RBGE) Urban Biodiversity Project Officer, Leonie Alexander, will promote awareness of coastal climate change, risks in urban coastal areas and naturalisation of sea defences as part of Edinburgh’s Living Landscape partnership.

The joint public engagement project with Scottish Wildlife Trust, Glasgow University, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), Artecology and Concrete in the Classroom will investigate how the coast may change and how we can make the changes benefit people and wildlife.

The project will work with primary and secondary schools in North Edinburgh to explore coastal biodiversity combining art, ecology, engineering and biogeomorphology – interplay between nature and rocks.

Leonie, who is the Principal Investigator, explained: “The pupils will have a chance to get down on the beach, learn about coastal wildlife and processes and will have the opportunity to use this knowledge to design and make structures from concrete on the beach with Artecology. These will be strapped to the coastal defences to encourage colonisation by marine seaweeds, barnacles and other species. With a bit of manipulation in terms of texture, pH, porosity and other parameters coastal defences could be rich wildlife habitat. Applying their new knowledge secondary school pupils will have the chance to work at ESALA to design and create tiles which will be attached to the rock armouring or sea defence walls on Edinburgh’s north shore. These tiles and the other features will be monitored for colonisation by students from the University of Glasgow and local residents will also have the chance to check out what species have moved in to this new accommodation.’’

Part of the NERC funding focuses on teaching early career scientists skills in public engagement so there will also be workshops, and two films will be created to share the findings of the project.


The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)