Queensland's Citizen Science Hub

The National Waterbug Blitz is Australia’s first nationwide, citizen science, waterway monitoring event. In spring each year, Australians are encouraged to discover how healthy their local waterways and wetlands are, simply by exploring and identifying what waterbugs live in them. Many schools, farmers, local residents, catchment or Landcare and other community groups, are collecting information on local waterway biodiversity through surveys of water life.

Participants usually attend a workshop or training event hosted by a local group and take water samples containing freshwater macroinvertebrates, which can include various stages of life, from dragon flies, damselfies, mayflies, caddisflies, waterbeetles and many more species that inhabit the water in creeks or waterways.

Aquatic invertebrates, though small, play a very important role in determining a waterway’s health These tiny creatures are very sensitive to changes in the waterway. Therefore, the condition of the wetland, creek or river can be easily determined by the presence or absence of these creatures. Thus in very disturbed water only very hardy species (those not sensitive to pollutants or sediment run off for example) will be present. Snails, bloodworms or backswimmers would be most commonly found.

The Waterbug App is free to download. However, it’s not just as simple as taking a photo. Participants need to have the correct resources, to collect the water samples, such as a fine mesh net, buckets and sampling materials to pick the live samples and classify them before the photo can be taken and uploaded.

It’s intense work, requiring at least two people to help as well as a safety factor whenever one is working in water. Involving adults and children to get outdoors to try hands-on activities to learn about freshwater ecosystems has to be a bonus in any science activity!

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