Got a moment? Help research into life under Covid-19 restrictions
From attitudes to eating habits, online surveys are looking for information during lockdown
The Irish Hedgehog Survey is looking for information on these shy creatures. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons.
DCU researchers want to track litter near Ireland’s waterways. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.
How are you doing during the Covid-19 restrictions? No, really, how are you feeling about it? Have your eating patterns changed? If you have a baby or toddler, have their eating patterns changed too? These are some of the questions that researchers in Ireland are trying to answer through online surveys.
Coping and behaviour change in a time of Covid
“It’s probably an ideal time for people to take surveys, people are at home more and are maybe spending more time online anyway. Also, I think people really want to be able to do something to help others at this time,” says health psychologist Prof Molly Byrne, who directs the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway.
She is involved in iCARE, an international survey of people’s attitudes, experience and behaviours during Covid-19 “lockdown”. Led by researchers in Montreal and gathering data from more than 140 countries around the world, Byrne is helping to promote the survey in Ireland and analyse responses from people living here.
“It means we will be able to look at how different countries responded to the crisis and see how that links to behavioural responses and psychological wellbeing,” she says. “Findings will be used by the Behaviour Change Subgroup who advise NPHET to inform public health advice in Ireland as we continue to lift restrictions.”
The iCARE survey is being carried out in four waves, and the researchers are keen to get as many people as possible to respond to each wave. The survey is available at https://mbmc-cmcm.ca/covid19
Pandemic food for thought
If you go by the pictures on social media of home-made bread and other culinary creations, then food has become a touchstone for many people during the pandemic. Researchers at University College Dublin Institute of Food and Health are taking a more scientific approach to assessing our eating habits in lockdown, by asking people over the age of 18 to fill out the National Covid-19 Food Survey at www.covidfood.ie
For Dr Liz O’Sullivan and Dr Aileen Kennedy, both dietitians and lecturers from TU Dublin, the focus is on whether and how Covid-19 restrictions are affecting the nutrition of the youngest people in Ireland. They had seen anecdotal reports during lockdown of families struggling to get breastfeeding support or not being able to access their preferred formula in shops, so they set up up a survey for any primary caregiver in Ireland of a child under the age of two, in order to get a better picture of what is going on.
“There are some background questions to begin with, some questions about how their child is currently fed, and about their experience of feeding their child during the coronavirus crisis,” explains O’Sullivan.
“It’s a once-off survey and so far the average amount of time to complete is 10 minutes. [From the survey] we hope to understand the challenges families have faced, but also things that they feel would have made feeding their young children easier during this type of emergency. We think that Ireland should have an Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Plan, as recommended by the WHO, but we don’t. The data we collect will help us understand what could go into such a plan to help families in future emergency situations.”
Keep your eyes peeled
If you are getting out for exercise within your five-kilometre zone, you may also be able to help other scientists who are tracking wildlife and changes to the environment.
Elaine O’Riordan at NUI Galway is studying the habitats and habits of hedgehogs in Ireland. She works on The Irish Hedgehog Survey, a collaboration between NUI Galway and the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
“Part of my PhD is to work with citizen scientists, who can alert me if they spot a hedgehog when they are out walking, or if they see one in the garden,” says O’Riordan. “Hedgehogs are quite shy though, so there is also an option to make a footprint tunnel for your garden or another local green space. The tunnel captures the hedgehog’s tracks if one visits it overnight, and you can send me the data about whether you found evidence of hedgehogs or not.”
Find out more about hedgehog sleuthing here.
If your outings take you to waterways, researchers at Dublin City University want you to track any litter you see and send them a photo with the location of the rubbish and complete a short questionnaire.
DCU Water Institute hopes the survey will help to identify litter hotspots and what type of litter is in our ponds, streams, lakes and rivers, so that clean-up efforts can be focused and effective. The 5KLitterSnap survey is open until May 29th, see: https://dcuwater.ie/5klittersnap/