Funding boost for citizen scientists to monitor state’s waterways

News article |

Citizen scientists will collect critical data to help monitor the health of waterways across 3 landscape regions thanks to a $150,000 grant from the state government’s Citizen Science Fund.

The new funding means established Waterwatch and Waterbug BioBlitz activities in Murraylands and Riverland and Hills and Fleurieu regions will now expand to include Northern and Yorke catchments.

Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Planning Officer Jennifer Munro said the new program running across 3 regions will capitalise on the efficiencies of working together with centralised coordination, planning, communication, and data management.

”The importance of this work can’t be overstated, with decreased rainfall and land use changes continuing to affect regional water quality,” Jennifer said.

“The involvement of our avid citizen scientists means that we can do so much more than we could ever hope to do on our own.

“This project will bring people, policy and science together in a coordinated and collaborative way to achieve more sustainable and healthy waterways.

“We are looking forward to working with Peramangk, Ngarrindjeri and Ngadjuri First Nations peoples to develop the project and build in opportunities for citizen scientists to learn from Traditional Owners about the cultural importance of our waterways and their spiritual connection to their land and waters.”

Funding boost for citizen scientists to monitor state’s waterways
Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Planning Officer Jennifer Munro at a BioBlitz session in the Clare Valley. Credit: Matthew Turner, NYLB.

Kelly Freebairn from Snowtown in the state’s Mid North is a citizen scientist who loves the opportunity to learn more about water bugs with other passionate volunteers.

“Aquatic invertebrates, the little bugs living in the water, they’re amazing little animals,’ she said. “With a microscope you can get up close and see these critters that are living in our waters and you can learn so much. And the good thing is that if you have bugs in your waterways, it means they’re clean and they’re healthy.”

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu Senior Stewardship Officer Dana Miles said they are thrilled with the new coordinated arrangements.

“It’s great that we’ll be able to lean on and learn from each other,” Dana said.

“We’ve been running BioBlitzes in our region since 2016 and we’re so impressed and grateful that so many people care enough to come out and get involved in tracking the health of their local waterways.

“It’s incredible when community groups, organisations, and individuals come together to work side by side with aquatic ecologists.

“It’s also a great learning opportunity, because as people come together to collect data they also find out more about the amazing biodiversity in our waterways and why we need to look after them.”

Funding boost for citizen scientists to monitor state’s waterways

Also linked with collaborative water monitoring is a pilot project to produce an annual report card for the Marne and Saunders catchment area that spans the boundary of the Northern and Yorke and Murraylands and Riverland landscape regions.

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Senior Project Officer Citizen Science Sylvia Clarke said that the report cards would be produced collaboratively with the community and bring together all forms of available knowledge for the catchment, painting a picture of status and trends.

“The idea is that this style of reporting could then be rolled out to other catchments”, Sylvia said.

“The data collected also feeds into monitoring and evaluation of prescribed water resources, which are resources that have a regulatory framework, so this is important work.”

Waterwatch is for anyone who would like to get involved. It’s a community-based program where local people and school students get involved in regularly monitoring local waterways, with data collection focussed around site visits on the third weekend (Thursday to Monday) of each month during the ‘flow season’ of May to November each year.

Waterbug BioBlitzes are events that bring together volunteer and professional scientists to collect data from multiple sites within a catchment on a single day. They occur annually in spring (October to end of November) with each catchment being sampled as close as possible to the previous years’ dates to ensure consistency with existing long term data sets.

The project will be delivered by landscape boards in partnership with Peramangk, Ngarrindjeri and Ngadjuri First Nations and with the support of the Department for Environment and Water.

Anyone interested in joining the ever-growing band of citizen scientists should keep an eye on their local landscape board’s social media pages or newsletter to know when an event is coming up.

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