Citizen Science checking Bellinger River water quality

School students and members of the local community are being encouraged to become citizen scientists in a new project to help look after the Bellinger River and its special inhabitants including the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle.

Bellinger River snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi), Bellinger River NSW, November 2016

Coinciding with World Turtle Day (23/5) the launch of the Bellingen Riverwatch - Our River, Our Future, will see the community playing an important role in monitoring the health of the River.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Director Science, Jo White, said citizen scientists will sample water at sites along the Bellinger River to look for changes in the water quality and life forms and help fill gaps in the Monitoring River Health Program.

"The Bellingen Riverwatch project will focus on the health of the entire river system, which is home to various threatened species such as the Southern Myotis fishing bat fishing bat, Giant Barred Frog and the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle," Ms White said.

"The Bellinger River Snapping Turtle is native to the Bellingen Shire, and disease outbreak in early 2015 was responsible for the death of a large proportion of the turtle population.

"The turtle was designated 'Critically Endangered' in April 2016 and although a new virus is thought to be associated with this mortality event, very little is known about the disease.

"Understanding water quality is one part of an ongoing Bellinger River Turtle Management Program and the recovery of the Bellinger River Turtles.

"The OEH' Science Division, in collaboration with the Saving our Species (SoS) program, OzGreen, NSW Waterwatch, Bellingen Shire Council, Bellinger Landcare and the Western Sydney University, has developed a citizen science project to collect consistent water quality data in the Bellinger River.

"Citizen science is research undertaken by members of the public in collaboration with scientists, and it is driving a new era of public participation in scientific work.

"This project will fill an important information gap ensuring the availability of quality data in the region over time.

"There is strong community interest to work with OEH and collect scientifically rigorous long-term data that can be used to inform decisions about managing the health of the river into the future," Ms White said.