Blog

Streamwatch - 2014 in review

By: Karen Player, Greg McDonald, Category: Lifelong Learning, Date: 15 Jan 2015

To recognise the amazing achievements of our Streamwatch volunteers we ran two end of year events.

Volunteers in the Theatrette

Volunteers in the Theatrette
Photographer: Carl Bento © Australian Museum

These events involved a series of speakers with a lovely lunch on the Museum Terrace looking out over the city. We also had some awards for individuals and groups that have gone above and beyond. Following the formal part of the day volunteers were able to catch up and share their stories and had an opportunity to visit the exciting AZTECS exhibition.

2014 has been a great year with 170 volunteers monitoring 160 sites across Sydney, Greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains. This has generated over 800 data sets comprising almost 5000 data points. We ran events and training sessions and launched Waterbug Watch to some great initial results. The Streamwatch team has also grown so we can better support the commitment of our citizen scientists and their contribution.

The interest and enthusiasm generated by our guest speakers meant that the programme appeared to just fly by with volunteers wishing for even more interaction with our guests than time would allow. Next year we will need to expand the program to accommodate all these questions.

Feedback on both days showed the work done by the Australian Museum Research Institute researchers was of great interest to our volunteers. In fact one volunteer has forwarded information for Dr Jodi Rowley about resources useful in identifying large scale environmental change to Vietnam forests.

On Friday, Daniel Cunningham showed us all that Sydney Water is an active player in making Sydney more liveable and sustainable, with a number of on ground examples of wetland construction and bank rehabilitation, including the Cooks River Naturalisation Project. We look forward to an inspiring field trip next year.

Dr Ian Wright and his students Nakia Belmer and Phil Price, brought some very sobering insights to the audience. Ian highlighted a couple of cases where Streamwatch groups had been instrumental in having mining sourced polluting either curtailed or reduced and contrasted this with the present and legacy impacts of coal mines in the greater Sydney region. Phil added further to this with disturbing results from his study of water quality below mine sites, while Nakia described the diminishing health of swamp ecosystems under stress in the Blue Mountains. It was great to see all three presenters utilising and indicating the value of macroinvertebrate assays in their work, a great way for Streamwatchers to appreciate the value of their own Waterbug Watch efforts.

The Waterbug Watch presentation highlighted the significant amount of useful information gained already through a single season of sampling. We have mapped all current sites, now we are well on the way to mapping the sensitive, at risk and slightly impacted streams in our region.

On Saturday we had the pleasure of Fernando Ortega and Rob Allen from Sydney Water presenting on the holistic approach toward stormwater and wastewater challenges as well as the practicalities involved in water sensitive urban design in the context of maintaining stormwater infrastructure. Fernando described how Sydney Water was taking on a key role in coordinating and facilitating water improvement strategies across jurisdictions and agencies, while Rob detailed and provided examples of the challenges faced in maintaining the infrastructure associated with gross pollutant traps and other stormwater infrastructure.

There was a lot of interest in both talks with many questions at the conclusion. It was stirring to hear the enthusiasm and especially to hear Ann Leahy say that the Cooks River had visibly improved in recent times as a result of new gross pollutant traps installed by Sydney Water. It was similarly stirring to see the response to Cecil Ellis’s presentation on salt marshes and their ecological importance.

Of course as well as the intellectual feast, we also had an enjoyable lunch on the Terrace accompanied by million dollar views, with a visit to Aztecs for dessert. Those volunteers wishing to continue working the grey matter met after lunch for a round table meeting to discuss the opportunities and challenges we face in quality coding and interrogating over two decades of Streamwatch data.

It’s been a great year of action for Streamwatch culminating in two celebratory days of scientific presentations at the Australian Museum. With the Streamwatch team and community this keen, it’s looking like a very productive year ahead in 2015.

Thank you to all our Streamwatch Volunteers for being part of the solution.
 

Tags citizen science, outreach, Streamwatch, 2014,