Citizens Create Knowledge

Expedition: Citizens Create Knowledge
Project Name: City Arboretum – Treescape of the Future

You should be curious and imaginative – but you don't need much more to go on an 'expedition' to the Campus Nord in Berlin-Mitte. Citizens are invited to explore and to help shape this green oasis in the middle of Berlin: the 'City Arboretum – Treescape of the Future'.

Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß

Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß

The Campus Nord of the Humboldt Universität, extending beyond the Charité from Reinhardtstraße in the south to the busy intersection of Chausseestraße and Invalidenstraße in the north, is both a historically significant place and an idyllic natural area hidden in the middle of the city. It's also the home of the dynamic, and growing Life Sciences.
Susann Wicke, Professor of Botany and Biodiversity wants to turn the park-like area into an experimental space. She is inviting local residents to come and discover the place for themselves and record their impressions – in sketches or notes, as photos or videos. There are no limits to your imagination. "We'd like to inspire locals to discover the beauty in the overgrown green areas," says Wicke. Nature needs such refuges so that diversity can develop. People also feel a greater sense of well-being in these biodiversity oases.


On Saturday (Aug. 28, 2021), interested citizens met for the first time on the North Campus to explore it and discuss its future. It was the kick-off of this project. Here is a short summary by Prof. Susann Wicke:

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Sie möchten am Projekt „Stadtarboretum - Baumlandschaft der Zukunft“ teilnehmen?

Under the Canopy of the Tree Giants

Undine Schneeweiß, who has worked on the campus as a biological-technical assistant for 13 years, agrees. She and her colleagues at the Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience have often spent their breaks outdoors, especially in the last year due to the pandemic. Conversations, not like usually in the cafeteria, were moved out onto the lawn under the leafy canopy of the trees, some of which are over 100 years old. "My colleagues now appreciate nature even more," says Schneeweiß, who also cares for a garden behind the laboratory building. "We also like watching the birds here," adds her colleague, doctoral candidate Elçin Tunçkol. Though she finds the foxes, occasionally wandering across the grounds, much more exciting. Together, the co-workers take care of the meadow, with its myriad species of flowers, which sprawls behind the laboratory building, but which was mowed far too early this year – before it was even in full bloom and could have provided a food source for insects.

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'Imaginative' Expeditions

Like Undine and Elçin, those who work at the Campus Nord every day and are interested in nature are already experts. Susann Wicke wants to expand the network of experts with the citizens'-science project 'City Arboretum – Treescape of the Future'. "We want to know what locals are seeing here and collect these impressions." Indeed, this perspective will likely differ from her own as a scientist. Parallel to the investigations and documentations of the citizen-scientists, students can count and identify the types of flora and fauna present in the area and map the landscape. In the second step, a dialogue with the citizen-scientists will help develop ideas for the 'Treescape of the Future'. This type of approach is called an 'imaginative expedition' and was developed by the AlltagForschungKunst Foundation to bring science, citizenship and art together.

'Combining Wild Green Spaces with Ongoing Intervention'

The citizens'-science project is also a reaction to changes caused by climate change. "We have to act if we want to preserve the environments we live in," says Susann Wicke.

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Meadows or trees are especially well suited to cities because they create a micro-habitat, in which many different creatures live. Susann Wicke is only willing to broadly illustrate how the 'City Arboretum' will ultimately look. "We want to make compromises in the process, meaning, we want to combine natural green areas with ongoing cultivation and maintenance. It's a long term process and the Campus Nord is the real-world testing lab."

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  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß
  • Auf dem Campus Nord; Foto: Falk Weiß

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