An Australian university is planning the world’s largest citizen science study of groundwater

Scientists at CDU’s Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods plan to launch a citizen science project that is one of the largest studies of groundwater in the world. Credit: Charles Darwin University

Resource constraints for groundwater research in northern Australia mean not much is known about the systems, but a new Charles Darwin University (CDU) study will make a giant leap 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 across the Northern Territory, Pilbara and Kimberley.

Professor Jenny Davies, CDU freshwater ecologist and researcher, said the aim was to recruit several hundred volunteers collecting 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,” Professor Davies said.

“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 have now and if there are unusual results we can do further investigation.”

Professor Davies said groundwater was vital to communities, farmers and industry in the Northern Territory.

She said despite it being such a vital resource for so many people in the Northern Territory, very little was known about the water or its interaction with surface water.

“Community concerns about excessive water use and pollution are growing,” she said.

“The remoteness and vastness of tropical and arid northern Australia means that community engagement is the only way information can be collected effectively at such a large spatial scale.”

Professor Davies, from the Environment and Livelihoods Research Institute, said she was confident it would attract the volunteers because there was a strong community interest in the safety of their water supply and the care of groundwater.

“I led a citizen scientist project in central Australia where hikers and rangers collected water from pits 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 water use in the NT.”

Professor Davies and the team of researchers, including CDU freshwater ecologist Dr Erica Garcia and CDU hydrologist Dr Dylan Irvine, will first pilot and develop the app before rolling it out across the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.

The project is in collaboration with app and website developer Inspired NT and Northern WA and the 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

Quote: Australian University Plans World’s Largest Citizen Science Study of Groundwater (2022, November 25), Retrieved November 25, 2022, from university-plans-for-largest-citizen-science-groundwa.html

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