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.
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 access the expertise and available resources of a strong group of organisations and individuals
We thank our volunteers from the bottom of our hearts - without you, this program would not be possible! Our dedicated local volunteers undertake monthly water quality testing across 24 sites across the Bellinger and Kalang catchments. Volunteers have been trained in water quality monitoring techniques and participate in extra optional training water bug identification. Our Assigned Volunteers are supported by our Roving Volunteers, who step in if volunteers are ill, on holidays or move away.
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
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
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.
"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'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."
We have five local schools involved in the Bellingen Riverwatch program:
- Bellingen High School
- Raleigh Public School
- St Mary's Primary School
- Orama Primary School
- Repton Primary School
Volunteer with Us
We are always needing more trained volunteers to support this wonderful program.
We test on the second Tuesday and Wednesday of each month, so if you are available on those days, have access to a car, and are interested in joining the team keeping an eye on our rivers, come to our next training days!
We're hosting two Volunteer Training Days on 2nd & 23rd September - place very limited - register here.
All volunteers need to also complete a Bellingen Riverwatch Registration Form prior to attending our events.