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Workshops to foster citizen water scientists

WITH the country in the grips of a freshwater crisis a series of workshops will give Tairawhiti citizens the tools required to play their part in fixing it.

Education trust He Awa Ora, He Tai Ora, Healthy Rivers, Living Sea is running three free two-day freshwater monitoring and management workshops between September and December.

Freshwater scientist Murray Palmer said the hands-on workshops would provide participants with the skills necessary to accurately monitor water quality and assess land use effects.

“Clean water is so important to us,” Mr Palmer said.

“It has an intrinsic value, but we also swim in it, catch fish from it and drink it, so we need to understand how we can maintain high water quality and restore degraded water bodies.”

The workshops are aimed at anybody who is keen to better understand their local waterways and landscapes, including farmers, students, teachers, those involved in biodiversity projects, land development, whanau members, Maori land managers, and even those simply interested in checking out different landscapes.

“We will teach the science of water monitoring, so people are able to monitor their local awa, or wetland, and observe the relationship between land use and water quality.

“The tools are applicable to everybody. For example with invertebrate (aquatic bugs) monitoring, all you have to do is fossick in the stream and pull out the bugs, and you will know the quality of stream by the different species present.

“The type of vegetation growing around and in streams can also indicate water quality.”

Creating citizen scientistsThe workshops are intended to help create citizen scientists.

“There is a big focus internationally on citizen science, especially in areas like freshwater, land use, and soil quality.

“With a bit of commitment the community can substantially increase the amount of freshwater monitoring undertaken than that of just local authorities.”

The first workshop, held in Gisborne from September 21-23, will assess water quality at three different sites: Waihirere Domain and Tuckers Road in the Taruheru River catchment, and Waimata River at Goodwins Road bridge.

“The different sites show how the water changes based on the different environments,” Mr Palmer said.

The Tuckers Road site is just six kilometres downstream from Waihirere, yet the stream transformation is significant.

“In Waihirere the condition of the stream is remarkable, within a healthy terrestrial environment, while at Tuckers Road the stream has become degraded, due to changes in land use involving increased nutrients, stream channelisation, and the removal of native riparian vegetation.

“The change is distressing. The water is often black, with little sensitive aquatic life.”

Site monitoring will involve habitat assessments, measuring flow velocity and volume, water quality sampling, and periphyton (attached algae) and macroinvertebrate surveys.

The workshops are supported by a $12,000 grant from the Eastland Community Trust, and delivered in collaboration with Nelson-based independent science organisation the Cawthron Institute.

The second workshop will likely be near Ruatoria in October and the third near Wharekahika (Hicks Bay) in December.

The workshops are free, although koha is accepted, and participants are asked to provide their own food or food to share.

Details of venues will be provided, and accommodation may be available at distant sites. Recognition of participants’ learning will be provided.

To register contact Murray Palmer at murray@nmtt.co.nz or on 021 177 1926.

CITIZEN SCIENCE: Freshwater scientist Murray Palmer (front right) is running a series of two-day workshops to teach skills necessary to monitor water quality and assess the effects of land use on waterways. Picture supplied