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Scientists inspire the next generation of water managers

Image: Students from Barham Public School attended one of the School Workshops that were held at the Western Murray Land Improvement Group Centre in Barham in December 2020

We know that seeing and experiencing is believing, so if we want to inspire future environmental water managers, we need to give them opportunities to learn and understand how our river ecosystems function.  In December 2020, six workshops were held at the Western Murray Land Improvement Group (WMLIG) centre in Barham to give primary and secondary students a hands-on experience of environmental science.  These workshops enabled students to learn about how  our rivers function directly from the scientists that study these important ecosystems.

A team of four Charles Sturt University scientists spent time with school students talking about, and sharing their river functioning expertise.  Shasha Liu talked about how environmental chemists study water quality, Roseanne Farrant talked about riverbank plants as food and habitat, Nicole McCasker shared her experience as a fish ecologist, and Robyn Watts was able to link the ecological aspects of rivers to their hydrology.   It was a great way for conversations and knowledge sharing about our rivers to occur between scientists, WMLIG staff and school students.

Approximately 150 students from Barham High School, Barham Public School, Moulamein Public School, and Wakool Burraboi Public School attended the workshop and, as the photos show, microscopes were at the ready to check out what had been scooped up from the local waterway. The facilities at WMLIG were ideal for the workshops, as there was plenty of room to have more than one activity set up at the same time.  The kids were also shown how to make their own ‘homemade’ wetland sampling gear, and were given some information sheets to help them hunt for aquatic bugs in river habitats nearby to their homes.

Students from Wakool Burraboi Public School looking at aquatic bugs

Each session included some short talks, as well as some activities so students could use microscopes from Charles Sturt University to look at aquatic bugs and plants, as well as preserved fish larvae. Students also used water quality meters to test water collected from the Murray River, a local wetland and farm dam.

Being able to take a microscopic look at some of the bugs and plants that live in our waterways enabled students to get that all important first-hand experience of why water quality, flow and caring for our rivers is so important.  The workshops were a great success and we hope we have inspired some future environmental water managers!

Learning about water quality with Shasha Liu

Image: Learning about water quality with Shasha Liu

Students from Moulamein Public School learning about riverbank plants with Roseanne Farrant

“I loved everything about the workshop – especially learning about the bug and plants that live in our local area”.

Year 9 student, Barham High School

“Our Year 9 students really enjoyed using the microscopes and as a Science teacher I really appreciated the opportunity to expose students to real life science in our local context. Some of them even said they could picture themselves doing that as a career”.

Raelene Farrant, Science teacher, Barham High School

Image: Year 9 students from Barham High School used microscopes to look at aquatic bugs, plants and preserved fish larvae

Looking down the microscope

Image: Students from Barham Public School learning how to use microscopes

“Collaborating with CSU for this project has given Western Murray Land Improvement Group a wonderful opportunity to bring specialists and state of the art equipment to Barham, sharing amazing knowledge and allowing our local school children to take part in some very important learnings. It is vital to be able to provide these events to engage local youth. It sparks curiosity in younger minds and can pave the way for our future environmental scientists and carers, highlighting the fantastic work Universities play and showcasing what students can strive to achieve in their studies whilst nurturing our environment.”

Stacey Waylen, WMLIG

Students from Barham Public School learning about aquatic bugs

Image: Students from Barham Public School learning about aquatic bugs

Our work in the Edward/Kolety-Wakool River system

The Wamba Wamba or Wemba Wemba, and Perrepa Perrepa or Barapa Barapa are the traditional owners of the Edward/Kolety-Wakool River system – a large anabranch of the Murray River in the southern MDB. The system is a complex network of interconnected streams in a productive agricultural landscape, and our work aims to understand how native fish, vegetation, water quality and processes that support and sustain aquatic food webs, are influenced by targeted environmental watering actions.

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