Water - life - growth: National Water Week
National Water Week, 16-22 October, offers a timely reminder of the important role water plays in our daily lives. It is also an opportunity to increase understanding of water issues and look for opportunities for growth and innovation.
National Water Week was first held in 1993 and is designed to assist the community to understand and take action to protect and conserve our precious water resources and habitats.
The theme this year is ‘Water – life – growth’, a sentiment reflected by OEH in the delivery of science (through data, research and expertise) to protect and enhance all NSW water environments, both freshwater and marine.
In celebration of National Water Week, we introduce you to five of the scientists working in our Water, Wetlands & Coastal Science Branch, who share some of their daily work in, on, and around water.
Estuaries and catchments
Aaron Wright, Environmental Scientist, Estuaries & Catchments Team
Estuaries are places of transition. They are where freshwater draining from our coastal catchments mixes with ocean waters. Broadly speaking, estuaries are semi-enclosed waterbodies with open or intermittently open connections with the ocean.
Estuaries are one of the most important of the state's natural resources and are some of the most intensively used areas of NSW. Just over 80% of the state's population live in catchments surrounding estuaries.
Whether out in the field taking samples or in the office processing data, Aaron focuses on water quality and quantity.
Working with our Estuaries & Catchments Team, Aaron’s research helps us understand the role humans play in changing the natural environment – especially what is impacting, improving and maintaining the ecological health of NSW waterways.
Joanne Ling, Senior Wetland Ecologist, Water & Wetlands Team
From lakes and lagoons to coral reefs and seagrass beds, about 4.5 million hectares, or 6% of the state, make up NSW wetlands. Wetlands are important sites for biodiversity and can have social and cultural heritage significance. OEH, in partnership with other agencies, local government and the community, is helping to protect these wetland areas.
An area doesn't need to be permanently wet to qualify as a wetland. It just needs to be wet long enough for its plants and animals to be adapted to – or even dependent on – wet conditions for at least part of their life cycle.
Joanne Ling, an ecologist with OEH Science Division, is leading a project to build a reliable source of information about our wetlands to support their management.
The NSW Wetland Inventory will provide the information base required to support the broader goal that ‘wetlands are maintained, protected and restored across NSW', and encourage collaboration across the state to ensure that decision making on wetland issues are based on scientifically rigorous information.
Jennifer Spencer, Senior Scientist, Water & Wetlands Team
Wetland areas provide essential habitat for many special plants, birds, fish and frogs. Many waterbirds depend on wetlands for all or part of their life cycle, not only for sources of food but also places to nest.
This month, the 34th Annual Waterbird Survey of Eastern Australia is underway, conducted by UNSW and supported by NSW, QLD, Victorian and South Australian state governments.
To complement these aerial surveys, environmental scientists like Jennifer Spencer are out in the field coordinating ground surveys to track trends in the diversity, abundance and breeding activity of waterbird populations – with widespread rainfall earlier this year, the team expects to see an increase in species diversity and breeding in 2016.
Tim Ingleton, Marine Scientist, Coastal & Marine Team
The coastal waters of NSW are dynamic and complex, and increasingly under pressure from various conditions – from recreational activities to climate change.
Right now, marine scientist Tim Ingleton is out on the RV Bombora, a purpose-built marine research vessel equipped with specialised instruments collecting information on water quality, marine productivity, and the impact of coastal river outflows on our coastal habitats.
According to Tim, the most recent highlight of his job has been seeing that our work is highly valued and as a result gaining new funding to continue mapping and monitoring work for the coming years.
Mapping of the seafloor is highly important as we need it to model the effects of storms and changes to sea level on our beaches and underwater habitats. Most of the underwater parts of the coast remain unmapped in adequate detail, but monitoring these environments over time is critical for us to see how things are changing with pollution, development, and changing climate.
Edwina Foulsham, Spatial Data Analyst, Coastal & Marine Team
The land of NSW extends for 3 nautical miles from the coastline into the sea. Understanding our underwater habitats and the seabed itself provides vital knowledge to ensure our marine ecosystems stay viable and healthy into the future.
Edwina Foulsham, is a spatial data analyst with the OEH Science division, who – among other things – creates maps of the seafloor using data based on bathymetry (the depth of ocean water) and the hardness of the floor.
Using data collected from the RV Bombora, about 840 square kilometres of seabed along the NSW coast has been mapped so far.