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Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch

Recently redeveloped by CeRDI, the Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch portals are companion sites supporting two significant citizen science programs that monitor the health of Victorian waterways and estuaries. The portals provide essential resources for all members to access current information and data, as well as providing the public full access to data and knowledge generated by the programs.
 

Waterwatch website   EstuaryWatch website

Waterwatch - website

 

EstuaryWatch - website

Background

Both Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch are well-established, important community engagement programs promoting interest in water issues including sustainability, water management and the health of local waterways and connecting local Victorian communities.

Waterwatch facilitates citizen science and community involvement in river health and sustainable water practices. Waterwatch community members are encouraged to become participants in their local environment through waterway monitoring and ongoing activities.

Both programs rely heavily on community and volunteer contributions to assist with regional data collection and recordings of water quality across Victoria’s rivers and associated waterways. EstuaryWatch promotes the monitoring of estuary health at 21 active Victorian estuaries, and is supported through involvement of local catchment management authorities.

CeRDI has recently undertaken a significant redevelopment of the Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch websites.

EstuaryWatch and Waterwatch prototype launch September 2016

EstuaryWatch and Waterwatch prototype launch September 2016

Back row: Birgita Hansen - CeRDI, Paul Feely- CeRDI, Deirdre Murphy- Corangamite CMA, Ros Gibson- EstuaryWatch volunteer, Richard Akers- Melbourne Water, Cass Davis- North Central CMA, Nigel Philpot- Manningham City Council, Rose Herben- Corangamite CMA

Front: Kirsten Hogan- North Central CMA, Tess Hayes- EstuaryWatch Volunteer

Outcomes

The new Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch sites have been significantly enhanced, providing easier access to data and information through innovative technical tools and data portals:

  • Data contributors have access to an intelligent interface that makes it easier and faster to submit data with less risk of error;
  • The data approval process for region coordinators has been strengthened and approval time reduced via “at a glance” statistical review tools and online datasheet submission, removing the need for paper-based evidence to be mailed for approval;
  • Data discovery for all users has been made easier than ever before with the rich data history of both programs showcased in a brand new light that enables rapid interrogation; and
  • The data portals combine clarity of interface design, complementary data sources, traditional monitoring data charts, experimental catchment and estuary visualisations, interactive maps and flexible export options.

Working closely with project partners and representatives from both programs throughout the redevelopment has been highly successful in unifying the direction of these developments, representing an Agile software development approach. This has included embedding of program coordinators within CeRDI to work closely with the technical and research teams.

The open communication channel between partners and developers has fostered several “light bulb” ideas initially not thought possible; but now key features.

In the initial months since the launch, feedback from users and project partners has been extremely positive but also highly constructive in improving the functionality of the sites.

The Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch programs have led to new initiatives and partnerships including revitalisation of the River Detectives program (http://www.riverdetectives.net.au/) with North Central CMA, and opportunities to link estuary and water monitoring programs in other parts of the country.

Innovation

The redevelopment included the following innovations:

  • Engaging and informative visualisations involving charts, data tables and maps provide new ways of viewing up to 20 years of data;
  • Complex statistical analysis interpreted into plain language and highlighted by severity serves to both highlight possible data entry errors, and alert monitors to extraordinary conditions occurring at their location;
  • Comprehensive map portal provides a wealth of information on topics related to estuaries and/or waterways; including flora and fauna, climate, terrain, sea, ocean and administration boundaries; and
  • An intuitive interface designed for both beginners and experts alike allows users new to citizen science explore the data and learn more about their environment

Technical Features

EstuaryWatch data portal:

  • Browse or search for estuaries;
  • Estuary summary page combines background data, estuary events, estuary map, monitoring sites and estuary snapshots;
  • Estuary snapshots generate a “salt wedge” chart displaying the salinity at different depths along the length of the estuary;
  • Photos taken from recurring locations demonstrate the estuary conditions at different points in time;
  • Flexible data export options for estuary and site level data; and.
  • Site details show complete observation history, with quantitative data and charts available for physico- chemical data, and qualitative data and photo records available for mouth condition data.

Waterwatch data portal:

  • Data searching options to find catchments, sub-catchments or individual monitoring sites;
  • Interactive map showing an overview of all catchments, sub catchments, ISC reaches and Waterwatch monitoring sites;
  • Catchment and sub catchment summary pages drawing on all data available for the connected systems within the catchment;
  • Catchment snapshots connect charts, data tables and maps to display a snapshot of how the river reaches within a catchment change;
  • Flexible data export options for catchments, sub catchments and site level data; and
  • Site details show complete observation history, with charts that allow for instant display of up to 20 year’s data.

Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch map portals:

  • Library of map layers relating to Victoria’s water network, including  Waterways, Estuaries, Wetlands, Sea and Ocean, Groundwater, Administration boundaries, and Flora and Fauna.

Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch galleries:

  • Photo galleries provide easy access to site visit photos, with automatically compressed images preventing unnecessarily large downloads for user submitted data.

Approach  

The parallel re-development of both portals was separated into several phases. The initial launch of both public facing portals was prioritised to focus on core features and coincide with the end dates of the previous systems. This ensured there was no time period when the data was not available to the public.
 

Several evolutions of the public portals have been released since the initial launch, with features added and refined.

  • Data migration from previous provider
  • EstuaryWatch public portal - August 2016
    • Data submission frozen until administration system complete
  • Waterwatch public portal – September 2016
    • Data submission frozen until administration system complete
  • EstuaryWatch data administration system
    • Pilot phase: Access limited to key stakeholders
    • All EstuaryWatch monitors granted access after pilot  - November 2016
  • Waterwatch data administration system
    • Pilot phase: Initial access limited to key stakeholders.
    • All Waterwatch monitors granted access after  pilot – November 2016

Future Directions

The next stage for this project is the second stage of a longitudinal program of social research. CeRDI, in partnership with the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, has appointed a PhD student, Patrick Bonney, to conduct research focusing on the growth of citizen science as an approach for community engagement and the building of knowledge repositories to support practice change, inform policy and environmental management decisions. Patrick commenced his studies on 1 November 2016.

A public data API and OGC compliant web services are planned for 2017 to further enable interoperability of the datasets with other external systems.

  • Meet our team icon

    TEAM MEMBERS

    Birgita Hansen – Project Manager

    Peter Dahlhaus – Project oversight and stakeholder consultation 
    Andrew Macleod  - Stakeholder consultation and database development

    Paul Feely – Lead Developer

    Sudeera Abeywickrema – Development
    Drew Collins – Development
    Heath Gillett - Development
    Peter Plucinski – Development

    Guy McCutcheon – Graphic Design

    Robert Milne – GIS data
    Rick Pope – GIS data
    Himalaya Singh – GIS data

    Scott Limmer – Systems

    Chris Bahlo – Training/Documentation
    Craig Briody – Training/Documentation

    Angela Murphy – Lead impact researcher
    Patrick Bonney – HDR Impact research
    Jennifer Corbett – Impact research assistant 
    Megan Taylor – Impact research assistant 

  • Research output icon

    RESEARCH OUTPUT

    Hansen, B., Dahlhaus, P.G., Macleod, A., Herben, R., Murphy, D., Feely, P., Murphy, A. (2016). Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch portals: a collaborative research partnership to develop online tools to enhance citizen science, data collection and provision, and information sharing. Spoken paper. Australian Society for Limnology Conference 2016, Ballarat.

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