Bellinger citizen scientists helping to save the Bellinger River snapping turtle

This April is Global Citizen Science Month and we’re celebrating the continued commitment of our citizen scientists in the Bellinger Riverwatch Citizen Science Program.

Bellinger River snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi) hatchling

Bellingen Riverwatch is a program where volunteer citizen scientists collect data on the health of the Bellinger, Never Never, Rosewood and Kalang rivers to inform conservation management of the critically endangered Bellinger River snapping turtle. Since 2017, Bellingen Riverwatch has engaged 11 partners, 49 citizen scientists and 7 schools to collect water quality data at 30 sites across the Bellinger and Kalang catchments.

Recent bushfires destroyed much of the vegetation protecting riverbanks in the upper Bellinger catchment. Subsequent high rainfall events have resulted in localised erosion and sedimentation, with unknown effects on water quality. Data collected by the Bellingen Riverwatch Citizen Science program prior to the bushfires are a valuable baseline for water quality monitoring that will now continue under funding provided by the Australian Government’s Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program. 

The NSW Government’s Saving our Species program is continuing to lead the Bellinger River snapping turtle conservation project. Key elements of this program include regular population monitoring of the turtles and restoration of riparian habitat.

In partnership with the Saving our Species program, the Bellinger Riverwatch citizen science program will continue supporting volunteers to undertake monthly water quality monitoring at over 30 sites across the Bellinger and Kalang catchments and extend the program to include macroinvertebrate monitoring.

The community-generated water quality data will not only inform on-ground bank stabilisation, erosion control and revegetation works, but will enable us to better understanding water quality in the Bellingen catchment before, during and after the 2019/20 bushfires. 

Bellingen Riverwatch is all about getting outdoors, learning new skills, meeting new people, and working together to contribute to a long-term data set that will help scientists build an understanding of the rivers' health and the changes that are happening to those ecosystems over time.

Bellingen Riverwatch is always looking for more volunteers to support this important program. Water quality testing is held on the second Tuesday or Wednesday of every month and macro invertebrate testing will be held biannually in May and September. Volunteers must have access to a car and can register their interest by emailing Amy at riverwatch@ozgreen.org.au.

You can find out more about this project on the SEED Citizen Science Hub or find out more about Bellinger River snapping turtle.