In 2012, the year six students at St Emilie’s Catholic Primary School undertook the study of a local wetland near their school. It is a man-made urban waterway designed to provide residents with a pleasant recreational area as well as increase biodiversity in the area. The aim of the study was to learn about the health of the waterway and inform local council and residents of their findings.
The students completed a series of activities to learn about the area, including visits from SERCUL’s Deb Taborda to learn about the catchment, and to assess the quality of the site. These activities included:
- A site assessment – students identified and rated the vegetation (native and introduced), the water (colour and smell), the condition of the banks, native fauna (in and around the water), general cleanliness of the area (including litter and dog droppings) and use of the area. Each category was given a rating which resulted in a final overall score. This provided the students with a solid basis for further investigation to find out if their initial observations were accurate!
- Water quality testing – two sites were chosen for testing water temperature, pH levels, saline levels and turbidity (water cloudiness). As a result of these tests, students identified that the water quality was fairly good; supporting students’ initial observations during the site assessment.
- Aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling – once again two separate sites were selected for ‘macro’ collection. Macroinvertebrates can be used to assess the quality and health of a waterway. Some macroinvertebrates are very tolerant to pollution, while others are extremely sensitive. Finding ‘sensitive’ macros in the water, generally indicates the water quality and health is good. Students identified several sensitive ‘macro’ species during their observations, indicating the health of the waterway is quite good; also supporting their earlier findings during the site survey and the water quality testing.
Students didn’t just end their study there. They used the information to create a detailed report with reasonable, specific and sensible recommendations about improving the wetland to send to their local council! Students also used design packages to produce a brochure to inform local residents of their findings and recommendations for the area. The brochure asked local residents to be responsible for their own rubbish and dog droppings when visiting the wetland. Students also provided the residents with clear reasons as to why it was so important for the health of the wetland and all of the plants and animals that call it home! These brochures were delivered to every home close to the wetland and it will be interesting to observe if residents take up the challenge to take more care!
In 2013, the junior school began the process of rehabilitating local native vegetation in a natural bush site on their school grounds, while the senior school began keeping observational records of dieback issues in the same area. An audit of local native plants was undertaken and students used this information to begin eradicating introduced plants from the area in order to restore it to its natural beauty.
By Kerrie Cogger