Waterbug Census citizen scientist

Audio described version

Narrator – N1 (Priya Crawford-Wilson)

[Melbourne Water logo]
[music] [on-screen text: A guide to the Waterbug Census for citizen scientists]

>> N1: Waterbugs are an important indicator of waterway health, and they live in our rivers, creeks and wetlands. Melbourne Water works with volunteer citizen scientists to collect waterbug data as part of the waterbug census.

This video with provide an overview of waterbug census monitoring and how to collect samples. But, before we get started, let’s talk about what waterbugs really are.

Waterbugs, or macroinvertebrates, are small animals that live in the water. 

[music] [transition screen] [image of waterbug and drawing of eye, with on-screen text: Waterbug, Water Boatmen, Class Insecta, Order Hemiptera, Family Corixidae, no backbone]

>> N1: They have no backbone and are large enough to see with the naked eye.

As well as being an indicator of waterway health, they are also an important part of the waterway’s ecosystem. 

[food chain image, on-screen text: important part of the food chain, waterbug, bird, fish]

>> N1: They are a source of food for larger animals, such as platypus, birds and fish. 

[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: Because different waterbugs have different sensitivities to pollution, we can use them as biological indicators for water quality.

[music] [transition screen] [image with on-screen text: Freshwater snail, Physa acuta]

>> N1: For example, fresh water snails, like the introduced Physa acuta, are very tolerant to pollution and can survive in degraded areas with poor water quality.

[music] [transition screen] [image with on-screen text: Caddisfly larvae]

>> N1: Others, like Caddisfly larvae, are sensitive to pollution, and indicate good water quality.
[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: They are also fascinating to observe up close, with many species making cases out of plant materials, sticks, and even silk. 
[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Stonefly nymphs, Waterbugs, sensitive to pollution]

>> N1: Waterbugs, like Stonefly Nymphs, are very sensitive to pollution, and are commonly found in more pristine streams. 
Now, let’s have a look at what’s involved in collecting these amazing little bugs.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: How to sample using ALT techniques]

>> N1: To get started in the waterbug census, you will first learn the ALT method of sampling. This method ensures that all samples collected through the census are comparable. Your Waterwatch coordinator will provide you with extra support and training as you learn this method.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Safety and habitat assessment]

>> N1: Waterbug census volunteers monitor at specific sites set by Melbourne Water. They monitor in Autumn and Spring, and during this time, it doesn’t matter when the samples are taken. But, always make sure that you check the weather before you go out monitoring.
Once you get to the site, complete a site safety assessment and make sure the conditions are safe. Make sure you also take a person with you, as we never sample alone.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Sampling in the field]

>> N1: Once you have planned your sampling, and the conditions are right, you will need a net, a bucket and waders. Or, if your site is shallow enough, gumboots.
You will also complete a habitat assessment at your site. This helps you to identify the different microhabitats in the waterway and plan where you will sample from.
You will be collecting bugs from these different sections for ten minutes over a distance of ten metres. 
Depending on the habitat types, you will collect waterbugs using ‘sweep’ or ‘kick’ sampling techniques.
Today, we are using a sweep sample, as the water here has deeper pools and is not flowing.
We are sweeping from the edges and are also scooping up under the vegetation to dislodge different bugs from these different habitats. This will provide a more diverse sample of bugs.
After ten minutes, stop sampling and empty the contents of your net into the bucket of water. You are now ready to start sorting your bugs.

[music] [transition screen] [on-screen text: Sorting]

>> N1: To sort your bugs, you will need: sorting trays, ice cube trays, spoons and pipettes, small vials, ALT charts, keys and data sheets, magnifying glasses, or hand lens, and a small LED torch can be helpful.

Spread the contents from the bucket into a few white sorting trays so it’s easy to see the waterbugs.

Use the spoons and pipettes to find the bugs in the tray, and put them into the ice cube trays for identification later.

You will put similar bugs together in the same section of the ice cube tray.

You will need to look for as many different bugs as possible for 30 minutes. But, if you find a new type of bug in the last five minutes, then you’ll add another five minutes to your sorting time.

Once you have picked all of your waterbugs out of your sample, you can start identifying them.

You will work through the ALT identification chart, and use the ALT keys to work out which bugs you have, using your magnifying glass and torch to see small features if you need to.

If you are not sure what you’re seeing, confer with others to help to identify your bugs.

Fill in your data sheet as you go with the number of bugs and types of bugs you have found. When you have finished, return your bugs to the same waterway and clean your equipment.

Email in your data sheet to your Waterwatch coordinator once your survey has been completed. We will email you back, confirming your results. And, we will also send you your signal score for that site. The signal score is an overall rating of how healthy the site is.

Your data will contribute to Melbourne Water’s management of our local waterways, and it will also be sent in to the Atlas of Living Australia – Australia’s national biodiversity database.

[music] [transition screen]

>> N1: Your citizen science contribution through the waterbugs census helps Melbourne Water to manage Melbourne’s waterways, and helps to protect them now and into the future.

[Melbourne Water logo] [On-screen text: melbournewater.com.au/waterwatch]

>> N1: To get involved with the waterbug census, please contact Waterwatch or visit the Melbourne Water website.