Healthy Waterways Waterwatch Program

Creating Healthy Waterways, Creating Western Port!

April's Seagrass (c) Prue Clements 2011

April's Seagrass (c) Prue Clements 2011

April's Seagrass (c) Prue Clements 2011

Warneet Foreshore's mangroves (c) Robyn Carter 2011

While many of the Waterwatching crew are out and about monitoring our waterways by scientific means, there is an emerging crowd of artistic monitors gracing our waterways and our walls! You too can be part of this project, drawing together artistic works of Western Port to add to our knowledge and celebration of this under-stated, beautiful waterway system - Western Port.

Prue Clements monitors the health of Bunyip River by water testing, as well as sitting by the stream once a month and creating a watercolour of her impression of the river on that day. Her works reveal the seasons change with the fall of the wattle, when water temperature's rise to 10 degrees celcius and above, and eels emerge from hibernation. This work, pictured, captures the seagrass Prue learned about in April 201, which populates the floor of Western Port at the end of the Bunyip River's mouth. This seagrass is a sensitive species to the high sedimentation (turbidity) Prue detects in the Bunyip River at certain times and events in the year.

Robyn Carter enjoys Western Port from the water mostly. Aboard her and her husband's yacht, they experience life a float the waters amongst specieis of fish and birds and invertebrates flowing with the elements. Robyn returns home to capture her experiences on canvas conjuring the colours and palette from her feelings of the trips rather than the actual visual scene encountered.

Prue Clements and Robyn Carter are among many community members of Western Port who experiences their waterways by making art.

See their collection of works and others at the Exhibition Online that Sarah Crinall has been collating as part of Monash University PhD research into the role of the Arts in waterway-health education: creatingwesternport.blogspot.com.

If you'd like to contribute your own works of Western Port to this community exhibition, or if you'd like to know more about seeing these artworks in the flesh, contact Mikala Peters, mikala.peters@melbournewater.com.au

 


 

Waterwatch News Summer 2012

Kayaking at Tooradin

Kayaking at Tooradin

We’ve got another new face in our team since the last newsletter was published. In the west, we have a new coordinator for the Maribyrnong catchment, Paul Satur. Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our new member of the Waterwatch team.

Some of you will have noticed the addition of ‘Dr’ to the front of Tiana Preston’s email signature – Tiana has recently graduated and has a PhD in marine ecology at Monash University, a great excuse to play with penguins for five years!

A few staff updates: Julie Morris recently got married and has been honeymooning in Mexico. Julie’s email is now julie.meseha@melbournewater.com.au, but any emails to her old address will still work. Julie will be back at work in January.

This season's stories:


Fresh in the west!

By Paul Satur

Paul Satur

Hi my name is Paul Satur and I am the new Waterwatch coordinator for the inner West Catchment of Maribyrnong. Having grown up a keen surfer and outdoors enthusiast on the Mornington Peninsula, I have always had a strong affiliation, passion and enthusiasm for the natural environment, never being far from a beach or waterway.

Since the completion of my Honours degree in Environmental Science/ Environmental management, I’ve been employed at both state and local levels, including roles in bushfire management, biodiversity conservation and pest control with local government and more recently with the Central Coastal Board and Southern Oceanic Marine Education. My ongoing involvement with community groups and volunteer programs over the years have allowed for the further development of my skills and knowledge of the natural environment as well as developed an appreciation for the value and importance of community education and involvement in conservation.

While I have only had a little prior involvement in the Maribyrnong Catchment, it has not taken me long to realise its outstanding beauty and environmental value. I’m feeling very privileged and excited to be involved in such an outstanding region, and to be able to call places like Organ Pipes and Deep Creek my new office. I can’t wait to get out there and meet all involved, learn of some of the hidden gems of the region and hopefully encourage a few others along for the ride in the process.

See you out there!


Waterwatch in Ecuador (Insecto de agua)

By Jane Bevelander

Ecuador

As part of my recent volunteer work at Sacha Yacu a wildlife sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Amazon we were to organise environmental education sessions for a morning at the local school. The school had 30 kids ranging from 5-15 years old with little to no English.

There was a little wetland nearby so I thought we’d have to do a waterbugs session. I collected the macros using a very makeshift net, with no pole and found snails the size of golf balls, many needle bugs and dragonfly nymphs very similar to those found in the Merri Creek. I was apprehensive that these children who are surrounded by the Amazon jungle and all its amazing creatures would not be very impressed with waterbugs; however they loved it as much as any other group I have taken and were very engaged. I tried to help them identify waterbugs using my very limited Spanish, however the Waterwatch stickers I took for them were very helpful.

We also ran a rubbish relay game in which they had to decide what was rubbish, reusable and compost (there is no recycling there), which they were very good at. We finished the morning with a plant printing activity, although we had to hunt for some small leaves as many were too big to fit on the paper! For me it was a very enriching feeling to take Waterwatch’s environmental programs across the globe where they were just as engaging as here in Melbourne.


Frog Census update

By Rohan Long

Growling Grass Frog, photo: Richard Akers

Growling Grass Frog, photo: Richard Akers

The wet weather we’ve experienced over the last few months has seen a great surge in frog activity and as a result we’ve received many recordings from the community who have noticed a lot more croaking than usual. The main species that have been calling over the spring/summer season have been Common Froglets (Crinia signifera), Southern Brown Tree Frogs (Litoria ewingii), Spotted Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), Striped Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes peronii), Eastern Banjo Frogs (Limnodynastes dumerilii) and Whistling Tree Frogs (Litoria verreauxii).

Although it is now late in its breeding season, the endangered Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) is still calling in some spots such as Melton, Werribee and Organ Pipes National Park. The Waterwatch coordinators and I were lucky enough to see and hear a big group of about twenty Growlers in mid-December on a trip around the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee. Quite an experience! (See right).

Another species of interest is the Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog (Litoria fallax) – a species from coastal New South Wales and Queensland which is not actually native to Victoria. This species has been accidently introduced to parts of Melbourne as a stowaway in boxes of fruit. It is currently their breeding season and they have been recorded calling in Ivanhoe and, for the first time, You Yangs Regional Park. We are yet to see if this species will impact negatively on our local frogs, but we are watching the Eastern Dwarf Tree Frogs with interest.

If you are interested in being involved with the Frog Census, just grab a recording device (most mobile phones have a recorder that will do the trick) and make your way to your local waterway. A recording of about five minutes gives us a good idea of which species are present in your neighbourhood. Email the recordings to frogs@melbournewater.com.au and we’ll let you know which species you’ve recorded and add your data to our database, our website map and the Atlas of Living Australia.

For more info on frogs in your area check out the Frog Census website.


A yak in a kayak?

By Lisa Kordus

Education officer Sallie Burton and Tooradin Primary School students having an oar-some time. Photos: Andrew Lloyd.

Education officer Sallie Burton and Tooradin Primary School students having an oar-some time. Photos: Andrew Lloyd.

Have you ever driven through Tooradin on the South Gippsland Highway (where the big fish is!) and wondered about Sawtell’s Inlet? Fourteen students from Tooradin Primary School and their accompanying guardians had the chance to take a closer look by actually being on the water.

Casey City Council together with Melbourne Water with the assistance of Southern Outdoor Education held a writing competition in December 2011 in which students wrote a creative newsletter article, sharing what made their local river or creek so amazing. Students from Tooradin Primary School wrote about their local waterway, Sawtell’s Inlet. The lucky winners had the opportunity to explore the inlet, travelling upstream in double kayaks.

Participants not only learned how to paddle and manoeuvre their new water exploring devices, some also tested water quality along the way. The kayaking experience allowed students to see land use changes along the inlet, and effortlessly observe erosion sites and stormwater drains, not always easily seen from land.

This whole day event also included a Waterwatch educational session (on land) investigating the effect of nutrients on aquatic ecosystems. We also explored the mangrove community and learned about their importance with an informative session, lead by Karri Giles from the Dolphin Research Institute.

We would like to extend a big thank-you for making the day a success’ to Southern Outdoor Education for providing equipment and staff, and Dolphin Research Institute for providing an informative activity and staff to run it. And an even bigger thank-you to all that participated and made it a great day on the water for a yak in a kayak!


Drain Spotter tours: Melbourne Zoo

By Rohan Long

The grasses and wooden structure behind the pelican are part of a filtration system designed to clean the water from the pelican pond. Photos: Andrew Lloyd

The grasses and wooden structure behind the pelican are part of a filtration system designed to clean the water from the pelican pond. Photos: Andrew Lloyd

Using water responsibly can be demanding for a business, and few organisations have more challenges achieving this than Melbourne Zoo. The zoo’s seals, penguins, platypus, elephants, bears, frogs and countless other species need a lot of water and the zoo has developed various strategies to use it efficiently. On the 29th of November and 1st of December 2011, we were fortunate enough to get a behind-the-scenes tour of exactly how the zoo manages to do this as part of the Drain Spotters program.

Drain Spotters is a community-based stormwater pollution reporting program. One of the aims of the program is informing the community about strategies that businesses are taking to reduce stormwater pollution and more effectively manage their water usage. We have run similar behind-the-scenes walking tours at the Toyota manufacturing plant in Altona and at the Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Our tour of the Melbourne Zoo was lead by Environmental Sustainability Specialist Colin Knight and Water Technician Ben Zarb, who between them had great insight and knowledge of the zoo’s inner workings. They informed us that due to the zoo’s 150 year history, there was a lot of extremely old infrastructure and a degree of uncertainty as to the exact location of water pipes within the property.

An obvious challenge for water management at the zoo is the Wild Sea exhibit which attempts to recreate an ocean habitat for its four Australian Fur Seals. We were surprised to learn that the exhibit is filled with actual sea water that needs to be trucked in from the ocean about once a week. Wild Sea also has its own treatment plant to process the huge amount of water that is required for this exhibit.

All the water used in the zoo makes its way to the zoo’s own water treatment plant which is located in the north-western corner of the property, near the rear entrance. General strategies employed by the zoo to reduce water use have been replacing many of the old ornamental plants, often exotic species with high water needs, with drought-resistant natives and modifying garden beds to be covered in mulch or rocks.

We’d like to thank the Colin and Ben for showing us around the zoo and showing off the good work Zoos Victoria is doing to responsibly manage their water use.


Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands Discovery Centre

By Kim Lambie

Families enjoying the open days. Photos: Andrew Lloyd.

Families enjoying the open days. Photos: Andrew Lloyd.

Melbourne Water has opened a new Discovery Centre down at the Edithvale Seaford Wetlands. The building has an environmentally sustainable design and provides an interactive learning space primarily to be used for school education sessions. The centre will allow school groups to visit on a pre-booked basis, to undertake learning programs. School bookings will start from term 2 this year.

The key learning outcomes for the design of the educational sessions will focus on:

  • the Edithvale-Seaford wetlands - their role in nature, their biodiversity and their environmental significance;
  • the natural and urban water cycle, and how Melbourne Water manages the cycle
  • stormwater management (including raingardens, rainwater tanks, swales, stormwater capture, constructed wetlands) and waterways;
  • how behaviours affect the water cycle and what students can do to improve it.

The Discovery Centre will be open to the general public for a couple of dates in Feb if you would like to see the features of the sustainable building:

  • Thu 2 Feb, 1 – 3pm
  • Tue 14 Feb, 1 – 3pm

If you would like to know about future open afternoons, please check the Melbourne Water website or phone 13 17 22.


Welcome to Yarra Ranges monitoring network

By Tiana Preston

Waterwatch coordinators Julie and Tiana have great pleasure in welcoming groups within the Yarra Ranges back to the Waterwatch program!

Yarra Ranges has numerous community groups that will participate in the new partnership between Waterwatch and Yarra Ranges council, to monitor strategic locations between Warburton and the Dandenongs. Both Julie and Tiana are very excited to be working with these groups and in some wonderful locations, no less!

The program will focus on monitoring the impacts of stormwater on a number of creeks, and implementing stormwater disconnection (i.e. rain water tanks, rain gardens) where possible. Groups will also focus on water quality and potential impacts on the endangered Dandenong Ranges Amphipod (Austrogammarus australis) and platypus populations. Anyone who is interested in participating in the Waterwatch program within the Yarra Ranges area should contact Elizabeth Wallis from Yarra Ranges council on E.Wallis@yarraranges.vic.gov.au.


Creature feature: Latham’s Snipe

By Rohan Long

Photo: Jason Girvan (Wikipedia)

Photo: Jason Girvan (Wikipedia)

In the warmer months of the year, Australia is visited by many species of migratory birds such as sandpipers, stints, sanderling and snipe. These birds are grouped together as ‘waders’ due to their feeding technique of wading through mudflats at low tide and probing the sediment for invertebrates.

One distinctive member of this group is Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii). Although many waders can look frustratingly similar, Latham’s Snipe is easily identifiable by a long straight bill, large, dark eyes set high on its head and striking brown and white plumage. Its behaviour can also be quite diagnostic – when encountered, a Latham’s Snipe will usually shoot up into the air while making harsh screeching calls, fly off erratically and land a short distance away. Identification of this species is further helped by the fact that it is the only migratory snipe that regularly visits Victoria.

Latham’s Snipe is typically seen individually or in small groups of less than a dozen individuals. There is no difference in appearance between the sexes and juveniles differ only very slightly from their parents. Adult birds breed in Japan and eastern Russia during the Northern Hemisphere summer and then avoid winter by migrating to Australia for the duration of our summer. They manage to fly this phenomenal distance in only a few days.

This species is a regular summer migrant to Australia and can be found near waterways or freshwater wetlands around Melbourne at sites with low, dense vegetation and mudflats for foraging. They tend to prefer sites on the eastern side of Melbourne such as Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands, Karkarook Park and the Eastern Treatment Plant. As these sites indicate, this species is able to tolerate habitats in close contact with humans and human activity.

This species is classified as ‘near threatened’ in Victoria. The main threat to the snipe is the ongoing destruction and modification of the wetlands they inhabit. In the past, this species was legally hunted in all of the eastern states. Shooting this species was banned in Victoria in 1984. Some researchers have estimated that as many as 6,000 individuals were killed annually before these hunting bans were introduced.

Latham’s Snipe will be staying in Melbourne just a bit longer for this year; by the end of February or early March all of these birds will have set off on the arduous journey back to Japan where they will get ready for their next breeding season.