Amy Denshire donated 2019-05-08 06:02:05 +1000
Currently, Bellingen Riverwatch runs on extremely limited funding. Sustaining a highly functioning community project such as this requires adequate on-ground and administrative support to ensure that the volunteers are well supported and the partnerships are nurtured.Donate
By donating to Bellingen Riverwatch, you contribute to this amazing community citizen science project to be able to continue over the years and yield many great outcomes.
How River Landholders can help
We all live in the catchment. Landholders have an important role in maintaining river health and supporting the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. The main actions identified in the Bellinger River Health Plan (2010) to improve river health are management of stock access to the river and fencing off the riparian zone, preventing fertiliser runoff and drains on farms.
1. Restore River Banks
Improving the condition of the riparian vegetation and stabilising riverbanks is important for maintaining water quality and habitat for aquatic animals in the Bellinger and Kalang rivers. Without action to protect and restore these important areas, it is likely we will see a gradual decline in the health of our waterways through reduced water quality, the loss of riparian vegetation for birds and wildlife, and the smothering of macroinvertebrates, native fish and seagrass habitats with sediments washed into the river from eroding riverbanks.
Native vegetation plays a vital role in river bank restoration. Whilst erosion and deposition of sediment are natural river processes, the accelerated rates of erosion seen today are the result of removal of native vegetation over time through land clearing, over-grazing and other development pressures. This in turn leads to the loss of productive land and valuable habitat and impact on water quality and aquatic habitats downstream. The effect of accelerated erosion are especially significant during floods. Disturbance or destruction of river bank vegetation and weed invasion has also severely limited the ability of river banks to repair themselves through natural regeneration of vegetation between flood events.
In their current state, river banks need active assistance and management to maintain and improve their stability and resistance to erosion. Planting river banks with native species which are adapted to the pressures of this dynamic environment is a valuable way to ensure our river estuaries remain healthy.
The vegetation naturally occuring on estuarine river banks changes as the river water becomes less salty upstream. The Bellinger and Kalang estuaries have four vegetation zones characterised by particular groupings of plant species and their preferred location on the river bank. See the following for more info:
- Download Bellinger River Estuary Revegetation Guide leaflet
- Download Ecohealth: An aquatic ecosystem health check for the Bellinger and Kalang Rivers
- Download Growing Lomandra from Seed, Bellinger Landcare
2. Best Practice Stock Management
Best practice for stock management should address the following aspects: Fencing, off-river, Stock watering points, Formed access points. Stock management is vital for riparian health to reduce:
- Damage to riparian vegetation from grazing and trampling, leaving banks exposed.
- Compaction of soil by hard hooves, subsequent erosion and degradation of the river structure.
- Pollution resulting from sediment washing into the water course from erosion sites.
- Stirring of sediment and damage to aquatic habitats caused by cattle loitering in streams.
- Pollution resulting from cattle defecation.
- Weed growth, through high nutrient loads from dung and disturbed riparian vegetation.
- Stock exposure to water borne parasites, disease and footrot.
Download Bellinger River System Landholder Booklet: Best Practice for a Healthy River or request a copy of the booklet from Bellingen Shire Council.
3. Best Practice Fox Management
Turtle nest predation by foxes is a major threat to the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. Wild dogs kill and maul stock and pets threaten populations of native animals, have a social impact on farming and rural families, and are a reservoir for disease spread.
To enquire about the times and locations of baiting courses, contact Mick Elliott of the Grafton Ag Dept on 0408 352 174.
4. Best Practice OSMS Management
On-site Sewage Management Systems (OSMS) are the treatment systems that collect wastewater from the home for the treatment and discharge into composting or septic system located within the property of unsewered areas of the shire. By maintaining best practice OSMS management, river landholders can contribute significantly to keeping our rivers healthy. For more info see:
5. Report Turtle Sightings
Please report turtle sightings using Turtle SAT, and report nesting sights, and sick or dead turtles at the contacts below.
To report nesting sites, contact (02) 6659 8200 or Bellinger.email@example.com. To report sick or dead turtles, phone 131 555
13 December 2018
Image/Video: Lisa Foote
13 December 2018
Image/Video: Lisa Foote
Taronga Zoo Sydney, 12 March 2017
Image/Video: Taronga Zoo Sydney
Western Sydney University, 29 September 2016
Image/Video: Western Sydney University
OzGREEN, 7 July 2016
Ricky Spencer, 15 March 2016
Image/Video: Ricky Spencer
Help support OzGREEN's work towards the recovery of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and spreading the message for this Critically Endangered species
Funds raised go towards education programs, research projects and on-ground action.
We have just 5 years to turn the health of the river around for breeding of the next generation.
Keep-A-Cup - $35
(includes postage to anywhere in Australia)
T-Shirts - $35
(includes postage to anywhere in Australia)
LIMITED SIZES LEFT!
- Tee, size medium, colour navy - qty 7
- Tee, size small, colour navy - qty 2
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- Tee, size 5-6 years, colour white - qty 2
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- Baby suit, size 6-12 months, colour light blue - qty 2
- Baby suit, size 3-6 months, colour light blue - qty 2
- Baby suit, size 12-18 months, colour white - qty 1
We are currently seeking Roving Volunteers and Holler Volunteers...
Each month, more than 20 volunteer citizen scientists test across 22 sites along the Bellinger and Kalang rivers. Our roving volunteers are an invaluable part of the program.
Roving volunteers support the testing at core sites and step in if our water testing volunteers are ill or away. Also, if one of our volunteers move, or their commitments change, we fill these positions from our roving volunteers, who are fully trained, thus, we have no down-time when vacancies arise.
Being a Roving Volunteers involves being called upon as needed. Water testing is conducted on the second Tuesday and Wednesday of each month and roving volunteers are given site information and kit pick-up location information with as much notice as possible.
We estimate that roving volunteers might be called upon once every two or three months to test and recommend allowing 4 hours for testing, including travel time.
Roving volunteers are trained in basic water quality testing by OzGREEN Co-Founder and CEO, Sue Lennox, and are supported by our Bellingen Riverwatch Program Coordinator, Amy Denshire. Volunteers also get to take part in fun educational workshops and events (e.g. bird spotting, aquatic plant identification, water bug blitzes etc.).
It usually requires about two or three training sessions before volunteers feel comfortable to conduct testing on their own. Please download the latest version of the Volunteer Manual here (draft version) if you would like to read up on the training prior to get a feel for what's involved.
"I’ve loved sharing the information learnt with my children, and watching them learn, asking questions, and playing an active part in it." - Skye, Volunteer
We are currently building a worldwide base of Holler Volunteers, who will help us get the word out about the plight of the turtle and help build support for this innovative citizen science project. Holler volunteers may be interested in volunteering to distribute flyers/posters, attend market stalls, collect donations, talk to prospective sponsors or assist with social media.
Register Your Interest
Register your interest below if you are interested in joining our team of volunteers. Bellingen Riverwatch Coordinator, Amy Denshire will be in contact shortly. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Amy on 0490 068 685Become a volunteer
Water Testing Schedule
NSW Waterwatch Sign In
NSW Waterwatch Youtube Videos
- 1. Getting started - Site selection and risk assessment
- 2. Collecting a water sample
- 3. Measuring water temperature
- 4. Measuring pH
- 5. Measuring electrical conductivity (EC) or salinity
- 6. Measuring turbidity
- 7. Measuring available phosphate
- 8. Measuring Dissolved Oxygen
- 9. How to do a Water Bug Survey - Aquatic Macroinvertebrates
- EC Calibrating - EC Dual Range Meter
For all available NSW Waterwatch videos, visit www.youtube.com/user/NSWWaterwatch.
Water Testing Results Sheet
- Volunteer Manual - (current/draft version, currently being updated for reprint)
- Site Guide - 3rd edition, April 2019
Bellingen Riverwatch data results supports the findings from the Bellinger and Kalang River Eco Health Report Card (2011) and the Bellinger River Health Plan (2010) and tells us that there are elevated nutrient levels in the river, particularly phosphate, and low Dissolved Oxygen levels. Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient that originates from plant and animal matter, and is applied as fertilizer to increase plant growth in agriculture. Dissolved oxygen is a measure of the availability of oxygen to aquatic life. The amount of oxygen in the water regulates the distribution, activity, movement, and behavior of all aquatic animals.
From Bellingen Riverwatch data to date, we can see elevated Available Phosphate levels presenting in the Upper Bellinger River, Upper Kalang River, Upper Never Never River and Rosewood River. Low Dissolved Oxygen levels are presenting at sites in the Upper Bellinger River, on the Rosewood RIver and Spicketts Creek, and at all of our testing sites on the Kalang River and Never Never River. In the Bellinger and Kalang River Eco Health Report Card (2011), the Bellinger River received a B- mark, and the Kalang River received a C+ mark.
When interpreting data, we have used the ANZECC Water Quality Guidelines for a healthy lowlands river system. The graphs below show the Dissolved Oxygen and Available Phosphates data across the Bellinger and Kalang catchments July 2017 to March 2019. A current data spreadsheet with our raw data to date is available here.
How to read our graphs
We have used a box and whisker plot to represent the complete data set from July 2017 to present. This plot style is commonly used to show key parameters regarding data sets. The maximum and minimum are represented via the whiskers and the box is showing average data and the median.
Phosphates are the essential plant and animal nutrient that occurs naturally in very low levels in Australian soils. The ANZECC Water Quality Trigger Values for Available Phosphates for moderately disturbed ecosystems for Lowland Rivers is 0.02mg/L.
The graph below shows the Available Phosphate data across the Bellinger River, Kalang River, Never Never River, Rosewood River and Spicketts Creek from July 2017 to March 2019.
Sites that are regularly failing to meet ANZECC guidelines for a Healthy River System for Available Phosphates are B2, B2.1, B3, B4, B5, K1.2, NN1.2, and R1.
Frequent occurrence of results above 0.02mg/L could be harmful to aquatic ecosystems and increases the likelihood of impacts on waterways such as an abundance of algae and aquatic weeds which out-compete native plants; waterways choked with vegetation; increased biochemical oxygen demand; reduced dissolved oxygen; reduced plant and animal diversity; blue-green algal blooms; and eutrophication.
Possible causes of results outside these values include agricultural fertilisers, sewage, sediments from erosion, faeces from feedlots, dairies and pets, phosphate-based detergents, decaying plant material and industrial waste.
Scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage are carrying out a comprehensive bi-annual water quality and macroinvertebrate surveys (reports due early 2019) which will help identify the causes of elevated phosphate and nitrate levels.
The ANZECC Water Quality Values for Dissolved Oxygen for moderately disturbed ecosystems for Lowland Rivers (less than 150m elevation) is between 85% and 110% saturation.
The graph below shows the Dissolved Oxygen data across the Bellinger River, Kalang River, Never Never River, Rosewood River and Spicketts Creek from July 2017 to March 2019.
Sites that are regularly failing to meet ANZECC Guidelines for a healthy river system for Dissolved Oxygen are B1, B2.1, B4, B5, K1, K1.1, K1.2, K2, K3, K4, NN1, NN1.1, NN1.2, NN1.3, NN2, R1 and S1.
Results outside the guidelines could be harmful to ecosystems. Anything below 85% is a threat to aquatic life and the macroinvertebrates that our turtles love to eat. Potential impacts outside ANZECC trigger values include lack of oxygen to support aquatic plant and animal life and fish kills.
Monitoring Dissolved Oxygen levels is very important as the Bellingen River Snapping Turtle (BRST) is able to supplement its oxygen uptake through cloacal (bum) breathing, reducing its need to come to the water surface to breathe.
Possible causes of reduced oxygen levels in the river include low flow, stagnant water, organic waste such as sewage, fertiliser run-off and excessive algal growth in the waterway. Micro-organisms use the oxygen as they break down the organic matter.
Monthly River Health Graphs & Maps
- March 2019
Our current raw data spreadsheet is available here.
Bellingen Riverwatch brings together an exciting array of scientific expertise in the areas of ecology, invertebrate taxonomy, citizen science project design, land management, monitoring and evaluation, aquatic ecology and water quality monitoring.
Peter Serov is an Environmental Scientist, Water Wetlands and Coastal Science with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Peter is an Aquatic Ecologist and Invertebrate Taxonomist who has worked in a range of environments for over thirty years. He specialises in the identification of aquatic macroinvertebrates and stygofauna (groundwater fauna) with a particular interest in the ecological condition assessments and management of Aquatic Ecosystems. Read More
Gerry McGilvray is the Project Coordinator of the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Saving Our Species Project and coordinates other threatened species projects for the Office of Environment and Heritage. Gerry has a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Systems) and has worked in a variety of environmental management areas in the government and privates sector for over fifteen years including waste management and vegetation management. Read More
Rebekah is a Scientist (Citizen Science) responsible for designing citizen science projects to support the Saving our Species program delivered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. She has an interest in spatial data analysis and the aquatic/marine environment and is keen to develop scientifically rigorous projects that involve the community in achieving positive outcomes for threatened species conservation.
Sue Lennox (BSc DipEd) is a former high school science teacher and the Co-Founder of Bellingen based not for profit OzGREEN (Global Rivers Environmental Education Network Australia Inc). Sue is providing on-ground scientific support to Riverwatch during regular testing days, training new volunteers and monitoring Faecal coliform levels. It was Sue’s approach to the Office for Environment and Heritage Citizen Science Unit in September 2016, that was the catalyst for Riverwatch to begin. She brings 30 years of experience in river health citizen science and water quality monitoring. Sue has initiated many citizen science projects that have engaged people in caring for their rivers both nationally (including Bellinger River and Coffs Coast, Hunter River, Murray-Darling, Brisbane River, Sydney Basin, Adelaide Basin, Melbourne’s Yarra River and Hobart's Derwent River) and internationally (including Ganges River in India, Nepal, Timor Leste, Guatemala, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan).
Ingrid Garland is currently Director of a small consultancy – EnviroComm Connections, delivering services to clients on community engagement, citizen science, NSW Waterwatch and administrative projects in the natural resource management and agricultural sector in NSW. Instagram NSW Waterwatch Enviro Comm Connections
Ricky Spencer is the Head of WildLab and Associate Professor of Ecology at Western Sydney University. Ricky has spent more than fifteen years actively working on vertebrate pests. His major current projects include an ARC Linkage Project on the 'Turtle Crisis' in the Murray River, as well as developing optimal strategies to recover the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle. Ricky is also the manager and developer of TurtleSAT and WomSAT, two community mapping Citizen Science projects. Read More
Alicia Scanlon is a fauna ecologist specialising in bats. She has worked locally as a consultant for Eco Logical Australia for the past ten years, on projects as diverse as residential subdivisions, management plans for Council reserves, fauna inventories of National Parks estate, road and rail upgrades including the Pacific Highway and monitoring of biodiversity on offset lands for the mining sector. Her work often takes her away from Bellingen and she has conducted fauna surveys along the East Coast of Australia.
Kristen Petrov is a PhD student at Western Sydney University and is studying the decline and ecology of the Bellinger River Snapping turtle. Kristen’s current research focuses on the remaining Bellinger River turtle population, its overlap in diet and habitat with the nonnative short-necked turtle, and the susceptibility of freshwater turtles to disease.
Phil Pisanu is an ecologist who has worked in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales in research, conservation management and policy roles. Phil is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the programs of North Coast Local Land Services, which are focused on restoring terrestrial ecosystems and threatened species. Phil has been working with scientists and managers in the Border Ranges on Eastern Bristlebird recovery and will commence a vegetation monitoring project in the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Corridor in the next couple of months.
A core part of Bellingen Riverwatch is the dedicated team of local volunteer citizen scientists, who undertake monthly water quality testing across 24 sites along the Bellinger, Never Never and Kalang rivers. Volunteers have been trained in water quality monitoring techniques and participate in extra optional training and workshops as the project unfolds (e.g. bird identification, water bug identification, etc). Watch video
Our roving volunteers are an invaluable part of the program. Our "roving volunteers" support the testing at core sites and step in if our water testing volunteers are ill or away. Also, if one of our volunteers move or their commitments change, we fill these positions from our roving volunteers, who are fully trained, thus, we have no down-time when vacancies arise.
Volunteer with Us
We are always needing more trained volunteers to support this wonderful program. Find out more
"I recently moved to Bellingen and my niece, Skye, invited me to come along with her when she was doing the water testing. Having recently retired from a career in science I thought it would be a great way to help collect vital data needed to further understand the increasing stresses we put on our environment. Good data collection is at the core of good science so it is fundamental that we collect as much as possible.It also helps me integrate into the community and I get to spend time by the river with my niece.
"In our little town of Bellingen, we are very lucky to have the Bellingen Riverwatch project making it possible for locals to become more educated and involved. I’ve loved sharing the information learnt with my children, and watching them learn, asking questions, and playing an active part in it. I’ve loved learning from the team and seeing their passion and enthusiasm around the project. I'd definitely recommend citizen science to anyone. It’s educational, inspiring...it’s a way to get involved in science and help."
I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to gathering baseline and ongoing data of our local river health. Various land uses in the catchment concern me such as unmanaged stock, clear fell forestry, and excessive or inappropriate fertiliser and pesticide use. I hope that my small efforts can help add to a bigger picture that will ultimately improve our care of the local catchment area and therefore the river health, for all the life it supports.
"I feel its important to monitor the water quality of Bellingen River for the benefit of all those who use our beautiful river, particularly our native aquatic life".
"I've always loved science and the positive changes it can make to our worlds. Citizen science projects like Bellingen Riverwatch and the volunteers behind them are essential for building evidence and knowledge where our governments can't or won't act. Rivers and their health are a vital part of our local ecosystem so it's critical we care for them."
Help us spread the word
We are also seeking volunteers who can help us get the word out about the plight of the turtle and build support for this wonderful citizen science project. Tasks may be include events, social media or talking to sponsors. Contact us if you are interested.
Bellingen Riverwatch was created to provide consistent water quality data in the Bellinger and Kalang catchments following a disease outbreak that caused a mass death event of the critically endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle (BRST) in early 2015. A lack of water quality data was identified by scientists and community alike as a priority focus area.
The waterways of the Bellingen Shire are highly valued by the local community as they they support many activities, such as recreation and supplementary drinking water. There is therefore a strong community interest in monitoring and improving the water quality and riparian health.
Ongoing water quality data is important for monitoring the rivers’ health, identifying priority areas for management actions and educating the community on how to reduce the impact they may be having on their environment.
Bellingen Riverwatch is an initiative of OzGREEN and The NSW Office of Environment & Heritage in partnership with Bellingen Shire Council, NSW Waterwatch, Western Sydney University, Taronga Zoo Sydney, Bellinger Landcare, Earthwatch Institute, Eco Logical Australia, North Coast Local Land Services and Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance.
It is rare to find a project with this level of sustained community engagement, paired with such strong and consistent partner collaboration and focus. The breadth of project partners reflects the importance placed on working together collaboratively with key stakeholders who have a role to play in catchment health and biodiversity. This partnership approach allows us to leverage the expertise and available resources of a strong group of organisations and individuals.
To meaningfully engage the community to provide long-term, scientifically robust water quality data to support recovery actions for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle ('Myuchelys georgesi') and other threatened species. The reportable elements of this are Temperature (air and water), pH, Electrical Conductivity, Turbidity, Available Phosphate, Dissolved Oxygen.
To adopt a whole ecosystem approach educate volunteers and the community in riparian vegetation monitoring, reporting turtle sightings and evidence of turtle nests, conducting water bug surveys, and improving habitat.
To enable easy access and use of the data collected to the project stakeholders and the community to aid decision making, guide research, inform policy, raise awareness.
- To communicate data to the community in an accessible and timely manner which increases awareness and understanding of river health and threatened species conservation, which builds on current levels of stewardship for their river by community members, landholders, and tourists.
- To connect the community to expertise provided by various subject experts (e.g. scientists, ecologists, academics).
- To meaningfully engage the community to provide long-term, scientifically robust water quality data to support recovery actions for the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle ('Myuchelys georgesi') and other threatened species. The reportable elements of this are Temperature (air and water), pH, Electrical Conductivity, Turbidity, Available Phosphate, Dissolved Oxygen.