Resource limitations for groundwater research in northern Australia mean not much is known about the systems, but a new study from Charles Darwin University (CDU) will take a giant leap forward in our understanding through citizen science.
The study plans to use a small army of citizen scientists to collect, analyze and record water samples taken from boreholes in the Northern Territory, the Pilbara and the Kimberley.
CDU freshwater ecologist and head of research Professor Jenny Davis said the aim was to recruit several hundred volunteers to collect water from more than 500 groundwater boreholes.
Citizen scientists will enter the collected data directly into an application designed and built specifically for the project.
“We will provide easy-to-use and simple field kits, so that citizen scientists can collect samples for testing,” said Professor Davis.
“We will test things like salinity levels, oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in the water to determine its age, and even test for microplastics.
“There is a limit to what can be done, but it will give us more information than we currently have and if there are any unusual findings then we can investigate further.”
Prof Davis said groundwater is vital to communities, farmers and industry in the Northern Territory.
She said that although it is a vital resource for so many people in the Northern Territory, very little is known about the water or its interaction with surface waters.
“Community concern about overuse of water and pollution is growing,” she said.
“The remoteness and vastness of Australia’s tropical and arid northern regions means that community engagement is the only way to effectively collect information on such a large spatial scale.”
Professor Davis, of Environment and Livelihoods Research Institutesaid she was confident she would get the volunteers as the community has taken great interest in the security of their water supply and maintenance of groundwater.
“I ran a citizen science project in central Australia where tourists and rangers collected water from waterholes for testing and it was very successful,” she said. .
“This is a project that will help empower people to make decisions about water management and use in the NT.”
Professor Davis and the team of researchers, including CDU freshwater ecologist Dr Erica Garcia and CDU hydrologist Dr Dylan Irvine, will first conduct a pilot project and develop the app before rolling it out in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.
The project is a collaboration with app and website developer, Inspired NT and the Northern WA and Northern Territory Innovation Hub.
The project received $450,000 over three years from The Ian Potter Foundation for the study.
Provided by Charles Darwin University
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