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Melbourne Water named 2020 Ecological Impact Award Winner

An innovative ecological modelling method for protecting aquatic wildlife – a collaboration between Melbourne Water, The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University - has received a prestigious national gong, taking out the 2020 Ecological Impact Award. 

Announced by the Ecological Society of Australia, the modelling methodology will improve the understanding of threats and priority actions to best protect Greater Melbourne’s waterways into the future.

The model’s unique methodology is drawn from more than 20 years of past biological monitoring data. It can predict the future conditions of thousands of kilometres of waterways and associated habitats across Greater Melbourne.

Melbourne Water’s Dr Rhys Coleman and waterway planner Sharyn RossRakesh helped lead the project. Dr Coleman says the modelling provides important predictions of how waterways are likely to be impacted by continued urban growth and climate change.

“The modelling draws on Melbourne Water’s extensive long-term datasets on the distribution of fish, platypus and aquatic invertebrates and information on the characteristics of sites, such as streamside vegetation and stream flows and where these animals are present or absent.

“We can then make predictions of where particular animals are likely to exist in areas yet to be surveyed - or how they might benefit from certain management actions.

“This modelling is helping scientists, waterway managers and the community identify priority actions that give us the best chance of protecting our waterways for future generations,” Dr Coleman said.

As part of developing the Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018,  Melbourne Water and University teams held multiple co-design workshops with key stakeholders, where modelling outputs were combined with local knowledge and expertise to agree on priority actions and 50-year environmental outcome targets.

“The integration of expertise between Melbourne Water, The University of Melbourne’s Waterway Ecosystem Research Group and the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems at La Trobe University was critical to the success of this innovative and cost effective approach to identifying waterway management priorities.

“This Award is an acknowledgement of that and we are honoured to be part of the team to receive it.” Dr Coleman said.

Media: Catherine Garrett 0419 219 084

Platypus photo courtesy Douglas Gimsey