The Bellingen Riverwatch community hosted Ingrid Garland (NSW Waterwatch), John Gooderham (Waterbug Blitz lead expert from Tasmania) and Cecil Ellis (aquatic ecologist from Sydney) in the Bellingen region during 15-17 September to run training workshops for the National Waterbug Blitz Project for Bellingen Riverwatch volunteers.
Waterbugs (or aquatic macroinvertebrates) are great indicators of water quality in freshwater streams, wetlands and other waterways. Many waterbugs are are juvenile flying insects like mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and also include small beetles, worms, snails, and a variety of other aquatic insects. Different types of waterbugs can be sensitive to different levels of pollution, which means by looking at the types and numbers we find, we can get a health assessment of a waterway by doing a Waterbug Blitz.
The Introductory workshop was held at Gleniffer Hall on Saturday 15th September with 7 volunteers plus some kids joining the group. Volunteers learnt how to sample for waterbugs in the Never Never River at Arthur Keogh Reserve, then headed back to the Hall to sit down to sort, identify and count their water bugs. Identification was aided by the use of The Waterbug App, which is available for free via Google Play and iTunes App Store. You can use the Speedbug tool, or work through the dichotomous key questions (2 questions per step). We found a great array of bugs including some sensitive and tolerant ones, which was a great result considering the low flows in the river at the moment.
On Sunday, Kalang volunteers hosted the Waterbug Blitz Team at Kalang Community Hall, where we sampled the river behind the hall. A fantastic morning out on a wonderful spot on the river, with finding some great results as well!
Finally, on Monday 17th September, Orama Public School welcomed the Team for a Waterbug Blitz training session with Year 3-6 students plus 5 students and Andrew Core (teacher) from Bellingen High School. Students were shown how to net in the riffles and pools for the waterbugs, and then guided through identifying the waterbugs with ID sheets and the App for the high school students. Some wonderful feedback was sent to the Team by the teachers:
"Thank you for organising a wonderful morning of outdoor learning at our little school. Having professional scientists and educators present to, and work with the students, is such a valuable learning experience. Andy and his River Management students from Bellingen High added a dimension of social learning for our year six students, who will soon transition into a "BIG" school environment. This was an unexpected bonus. Whilst the whole event was excellent on so many levels, the piece that was most valuable to me as an educator, was to see several students who do not engage in learning as well as we would like, sit totally engrossed in a dish full of weed and bugs!"
- Leah Anforth, Orama Public School
"Thank you both for the Waterbug experience. It was lovely to see the kids working in such an idyllic setting with a great group of mentors. The practical aspect gives a whole other dimension to our river studies and makes it enjoyable for all involved."
- Andrew Core, Bellingen High School
The National Waterbug Blitz is available for anyone to participate. So even if you missed out on the training, you can still borrow some waterbug blitz equipment from Amy, your Riverwatch Coordinator, and download the App to have a try at identifications.
The App will soon be upgraded to allow data entry and photos of the bugs to be sent directly to the Waterbug Blitz Team, but in the meantime, you can find out more about the Waterbug Blitz on the website a www.waterbugblitz.org.au and use the results sheets available for habitat and waterbugs online.