To maximise the Bellingen River Snapping Turtle's persistence in the wild, it is important that the river’s water quality is monitored consistently.
Bellingen Riverwatch was born from the need to collect continuous water quality data to assist scientists involved in the recovery of the BRST and inform management decisions.
Bellingen Riverwatch is an innovative citizen science program adopting a whole ecosystem approach. Through meaningful engagement of the community, volunteers collect long-term, scientifically rigorous data that is accessed by our eleven scientist partners nationally to support recovery actions for the Critically Endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle and other threatened species.
Bellingen Riverwatch engages 32 local community volunteers and 5 schools to collect monthly water quality data at 24 sites every month across the Bellinger, Never Never, and Kalang Rivers.
River health and water quality can change due to a wide range of factors, such as geology, rainfall, vegetation cover, gradient/steepness and size of the catchment, human impacts through land use, natural disasters, climate, and much more.
To help build a picture of a catchments’ health, ongoing and regular monitoring of water quality is required to build what’s called ‘baseline data’ - a long-term picture of what’s considered normal conditions for that particular waterway.
This baseline information is important for river health and the future of the turtles, as the more we know about the river the better informed we are regarding what to do next.
Bellingen Riverwatch communicates its’ data with key stakeholders to help build a picture of the aquatic and riverine health of the Bellinger and Kalang River catchments, help identify issues and impacts, aid decision making, guide research, inform policy and river health priorities. We also communicate our data with the community to raise awareness, improve community understanding about the environment and threatened species, and promote positive river health choices for community members, landholders, and tourists.
In addition to water quality testing, other long-term citizen science activities include monitoring riparian vegetation, reporting turtle sightings and evidence of turtle nests as well as water bug surveys (turtles rely on macroinvertebrates as their primary food source). Scientists from OEH carry out a comprehensive bi-annual water quality and macroinvertebrate survey, and assist with data analysis and interpretation.
Bellingen Riverwatch Volunteers conduct site assessments, take site photos and test water samples for Temperature (air and water), pH, Electrical Conductivity (Salinity), Turbidity, Available Phosphate, and Dissolved Oxygen. This is complemented by Faecal Coliform testing by OzGREEN and bi-annual water quality testing by Scientists from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.