Waterwatch activities can be easily adapted for Tertiary students. The range of Citzen Science monitoring we deliver include:
- Water Quality monitoring (physical chemical parameters)
- Biological monitoring - this includes aquatic macroinvertebrates (waterbugs), habitat assessment of creek bed and banks and frogs
- Litter surveys
All monitoring is supervised by an accredited and trained Waterwatch Leader or Coordinator. Once monitoring is completed, the results, otherwise known as "data" is collated and uploaded onto various Citizen Science apps and databases so the data is available for the community.
Further information on Waterwatch monitoring:
Water Quality Monitoring (physical chemical parameters)
Water quality monitoring provides students with a fundamental understanding of waterway health, and as a result is a core activity of the Waterwatch program. Water quality monitoring involves the measurement of various physical and chemical properties, such as temperature, salinity, turbidity, acidity/alkalinity and nutrients. Students learn how these properties affect the health of rivers, creeks and wetlands, where they come from, and how we can minimise the impact we have upon our local waterways and the life they sustain.
When conducting water quality tests, it is important to understand why quality control is important and how to obtain the most accurate measurements; we call this QAQC - quality assurance quality control.
Depending on the age group of your students, we usually attempt to achieve secondary level QA/QC and then progress to tertiary level. Secondary level information is used by local government, schools and community groups as an indicative measure of waterway health in your local area, but if your group can attain tertiary level QA/QC the data you generate will be made available to catchment managers and will also be submitted to the Waterwatch Data portal.
- TEMPERATURE - Measures the average temperature of the water, which affects the chemical changes in water and affects survival of aquatic life.
- pH - Measures the alkalinity or acidity of the water, which affect the survival of aquatic life.
- ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY - Measures the amount of dissolved salts in the water (salinity level). Salinity affects the survival of aquatic life.
- TURBIDITY - Measures the clarity of the water (relates to the amount of suspended particles), which affects the survival of aquatic life.
- FLOW VELOCITY/RATE - Measures the stream volume and speed of water flow, which affects the survival of aquatic life.
- DISSOLVED OXYGEN (DO) - Measures the amount of oxygen in the water, which is essential for the survival of most organisms and aquatic plants.
- REACTIVE PHOSPHATE- Measures the amount of phosphorus in the water, an indicator of the nutrient status, organic enrichment and subsequent health of the water body.
- AMMONIUM- Measures the amount of ammonium (a form of nitrogen) in the water, which indicates organic enrichment and subsequent enrichment of the water body.
Aquatic Macroinvertebrate sampling (Waterbugs)
Macroinvertebrate sampling is another important and extremely popular activity for students. It involves the sampling aquatic macroinvertebrates living in our rivers, creeks and wetlands. Macroinvertebrates are best sampled during spring and autumn, where students will have the opportunity to discover these wonderful and important lesser-known creatures. Macroinvertebrates are animals without backbones (invertebrates) that are ('macro') visible with the naked eye and include insects, worms, snails, crustaceans, water mites and more.
These aquatic ‘mini beasts’ play a significant role in the health of our local freshwater rivers, creeks and wetlands and are useful indicators of stream health. Macroinvertebrates form an important part of the food chain and are essential for a healthy ecosystem. Many of these aquatic invertebrates are sensitive to even quite mild pollutants or changes in water quality. By investigating the types of macroinvertebrates present in the stream, students can learn to identify macroinvertebrates to Order, and family level, by using classification keys and charts.
The diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates in the waterway enables students to determine a SIGNAL (Stream Index Grade Number Average Level) score, providing an indicative measure of the ecological health of the river, creek or wetland habitats being sampled. These results provide a snapshot of waterway condition, and help give the community and river health managers a broader understanding of waterway health.
The river environment, including both riparian (adjacent to the river itself) and aquatic zones, provides important habitat for many aquatic and terrestrial species, including fish, frogs, invertebrates, platypus, native water rats, and birds. Both in-stream and riparian habitat assessments are important Waterwatch activities and are a great way for students and community groups to gain an appreciation of the physical environment and how human activities can impact on river condition.
The Waterwatch Coordinator can train students to identify the main frogs within the Merri and Moonee Ponds catchments, and then use the Melbourne Water Frog Census app to record and upload frog census information. All data is then available for all users of the app and is also loaded periodically onto the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.
Litter surveys and Stormwater Education
Litter and other pollutants entering our waterways via the stormwater system is a major problem for the health of local waterways across the Port Phillip and Western Port Catchments. Litter, leaves, grass clippings, soil, cigarette butts, dog droppings, garden fertiliser, car washing detergent, petrol, oil and grease from roadways can all get washed into the stormwater system and end up polluting local waterways and eventually our bays and local beaches.
Waterwatch actively encourages the implementation of stormwater awareness and management programs across the region. Students can become actively involved in this program in a variety of ways. Drain stencilling and litter surveys (both in the school grounds, within the local neighbourhood, and down at the waterway) helps to educate the wider community and provides valuable information regarding pollutants entering our waterways via the stormwater system. Students are encouraged to discuss and develop strategies to address this issue and reduce the threat of stormwater litter. Students can work on source reduction plans using data collated through our litter citizen science program.
Other resources available to Tertiary Institutions
- Catchment Tours: All day events where classes can be taken on a tour of either the Merri or Moonee Ponds Catchments. Students can track the condition of the river from the upper region to the more urban areas. Catchment tours provide opportunities for students to learn about impacts of various land uses upon river health from their observations and monitoring on the day. Institutions will need to organise their own transport. Please let us know well in advance if you are interested in a catchment tour.
- Water testing equipment loans, and advice on selecting the best equipment for your purposes.
- Assistance with Grant Applications - for the purchase of testing kits or fees for service
- PD sessions: Training Day for teacher’s – Full day training session on the four training modules that the Waterwatch Program covers.
- Waterwatch Manual and Resources for Teachers – available to schools and participants for the step-by-step development of an on-going monitoring program.
- Becoming involved in the annual Waterbug Blitz citizen science project
- Reports, teaching resources and specific information about the ecology history, geography and conservation of Merri creek and its tributaries are available from Merri Creek Management Committee