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collaborative science

United by the Doce River

Researchers and members of the general public in Brazil have joined forces in response to the November 2015 rupture of the tailings dams owned by mining company Samarco in Minas Gerais State. It started on Facebook, when biologist Dante Pavan started a movement that gave rise to the Independent Group for Assessment of the Environmental Impact (Giaia). Within four days, through crowdfunding, the group was able to raise enough money for its first set of analyses. Giaia’s website on the social network provides instructions for anyone who wants to collect water from the Doce River and send it to the laboratory run by toxicologist Vivian Santos at the University of Brasília. “In addition to systematized analyses, we are using a citizen-science model,” explains biologist Rominy Stefani, of the Giaia managing team. “We have samples from the river before the tailings were dumped and we have people in the field.” In the near future, the group intends to post a report on the ecological damage caused by the disaster, which extends beyond the river. Ornithologist Renato Gaban Lima from the Federal University of Alagoas (Ufal) will collect samples of local birds, for example. At this time of year, migratory birds visit the region to obtain food. An additional initiative is underway at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (Ufes), which set up a group of 100 researchers to delineate actions and draft a monitoring plan for the lower region of the Doce River and the affected coastal area. Part of the work is being done aboard a Navy ship.