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National Waterbug Blitz
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National Waterbug Blitz

The National Waterbug Blitz is Australia’s first nationwide citizen science, waterway monitoring event. Citizen scientists will uncover clues for assessing the health of their local waterways and wetlands by exploring and identifying the water bugs that live in them.
 

National Waterbug Blitz website

National Waterbug Blitz website

Background

Funding for the National Waterbug Blitz: citizens assessing Australian waterways was announced in 2017. CeRDI, together with partners; Waterwatch, Corangamite CMA, EnviroComm Connections, and The Waterbug Company, were awarded funding from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as part of the Inspiring Australia - Science Engagement Program. The project was one of only 18 successfully projects to be funded from a large national pool of applications.

The National Waterbug Blitz will allow communities to engage with nature, build their skills and learn about freshwater biodiversity while participating in assessing our nation’s waterway health. The National Waterbug Blitz builds upon 25 years of successful citizen monitoring in waterways by Waterwatch Victoria and other state/territory Waterwatch and water monitoring programs by harnessing the expertise and knowledge of participants.

Data collected from citizen scientists will provide a new knowledge repository about water bugs (aquatic macroinvertebrates). These water bugs live in freshwater and may include the initial stages of development for insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, and water beetles. Water bugs are sensitive to pollution and declines in water quality, making them a good indicator of waterway health.

Outcomes

Assessment of the nation’s waterways will be coordinated through the National Waterbug Blitz, commencing in October 2018. Community members across Australia were invited to participate and to collect information on local waterway biodiversity using water bug surveys. Targeted training sessions were conducted by existing water monitoring groups and organisations in different states. By partnering community members with expert volunteers and professionals, this collaborative approach provided assessment of waterways water bug surveys in local community areas that are not ordinarily measured.

Until now, the massive scale of monitoring Australia’s waterways by governments and researchers was a formidable task. This project aimed to collect excellent quality data over two consecutive years with involvement from both local citizen scientists and professional scientists. The data was subject to verification procedures and mapped alongside existing professional and organisational data, to allow a broader geographic representation of water bug populations and waterway health.

The National Waterbug Blitz website has been developed to link to existing sister sites like Waterwatch Victoria, facilitating the exchange of data and information between programs and enhancing accessibility of citizen science data.

Innovation

This project draws on bespoke technology, developed by CeRDI, for supporting and enhancing citizen science programs. It will build on these technologies by including direct linkages to Atlas of Living Australia and ensuring the bi-directional flow of data through application programming interface (API) development. It is also the first of CeRDI’s projects to incorporate application (App) technology as a tool for data collection, both environmental and ecological data, but also social data like user motivations and skill.

Technical Features

  • A flexible water bug monitoring MySQL database designed to support data from a range of sources
  • A RESTful API built with the Laravel framework for contribution and consumption of water bug data
    • Includes support for authentication via social networks

Designed for, but not limited to, integration with mobile Apps as the user interface to the database.
 

Approach

The most fundamental aspect of this project is community participation, and success of the project hinges on engaging with volunteers and citizen scientists as broadly as possible. This brings with it challenges in terms of reaching a wide audience in various parts of the country and supporting those potential participants with resources and training. This is being achieved through an experienced and well-networked project team, whose individual members have links to many community-monitoring groups, experienced volunteers, professionals, and organisations in the aquatic sciences space.

The National Waterbug Blitz project team has spent considerable time during the initial stages of the project establishing new connections or strengthening existing ones with a wide range of groups and individuals, e.g., Waterwatch NSW and ACT, StreamWatch, Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Melbourne Water. Representation of the project at relevant fora like the Australian Citizen Science Association conference, National Waterwatch network coordinator meetings, and conferences like Australian Stream Management Conference are crucial to raising awareness of the project and partnering with other organisations for expanding the participant network and sharing data.

The team has developed training resources and sponsorship packages to enable other groups and organisations to host training sessions. These will complement sessions planned through the Waterwatch network. Running simultaneously is the development of technology platforms that underpin the project. In-depth knowledge of the project team members John Gooderham and Michael Sharman is supporting re-development of the Waterbug App and linking it to CeRDI databases, to ensure seamless data collection and transfer, especially is areas with little or no network.

The technology and training resources will culminate in the National Waterbug Blitz website and supporting Waterbug App, ready for the first of two annual blitzes in October 2018.

Future Directions

This project is anticipated to continue beyond the funding period. The information obtained from the 2018 and 2019 water bug blitzes will be visualised and analysed alongside complementary data on invertebrates, stream habitat and water quality, obtained through the program and from project collaborators via data sharing agreements. In doing so, not only will snapshot information about the state and condition of freshwater systems be obtained but it will also enable a large-scale gap analysis – where data and knowledge are lacking about waterway condition, and how information can obtained to help fill these gaps. The project also aims to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in the community and attract and retain longer-term volunteers in community-based water monitoring.

  • Meet our team icon

    TEAM MEMBERS

    John Gooderham
    The Waterbug Trust
    Waterbug ID Trainer / Tame Freshwater ecologist

    Birgita Hansen
    Project Leader
    Centre for eResearch & Digital Innovation (CeRDI), Federation University Australia

    Ingrid Garland
    Event Coordination & Communications
    EnviroComm Connections Pty Ltd & NSW Waterwatch representative

    Deirdre Murphy
    Project advisor & Regional Waterwatch Coordinator
    Corangamite Catchment Management Authority

    Michael Sharman
    The Code Sharman
    Mobile App developer

    Pat Bonney
    Social & Ecological Research
    Centre for eResearch & Digital Innovation (CeRDI),  Federation University Australia

    Paul Feely
    Application planning/development
    Centre for eResearch & Digital Innovation (CeRDI),  Federation University Australia

    Scott Limmer
    Systems Analyst Programmer
    Centre for eResearch & Digital Innovation (CeRDI),  Federation University Australia

    Cass Davis
    Regional Waterwatch Coordinator
    North Central Catchment Management Authority

    Cecil Ellis
    Equipment & Training
    Nature Navigation | The Waterbug Shop

  • Research output icon

    RESEARCH OUTPUT

    An oral presentation on the project was given at the Australian Citizen Science Association conference in Adelaide in February 2018. Similar presentations are planned for the upcoming Australian Stream Management Conference (http://www.9asm.org.au/ ) and the Australian Freshwater Science Society conference (http://www.asl.org.au/ ).

  • Our partners icon

    PARTNERS

    Water Watch Victoria

    Corangamite Catchment Management Authority

    Envirocom Connections

    The Waterbug Company

    Nature Navigation

    Waterwatch Upper Murrumbidgee ACT

    Melbourne Water

    SA Murray Darling Basin NRM Board

    Landcare Tasmania

     

    North East Catchment Management Authority

     

 

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