Wetlands Australia Issue No. 35
Author: Jock Mackenzie, Wetlands Program Manager, Earthwatch Institute, Carlton, Vic.
Earthwatch Australia enables students to influence national climate change policy
Through Earthwatch Australia’s Protecting Wetlands for the Future citizen science program, Queensland students and teachers have informed Great Barrier Reef (GBR) tidal wetland protection. The program, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, delivered teacher training workshops on wetland citizen science in 2019 and 2020. Since then, over 700 students from 18 high-schools have participated in ‘real-world’ tidal wetland scientific data collection. Data generated from this project was submitted to the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy & Resources to inform mangrove blue carbon modelling, supporting the development of a new Blue Carbon Emissions Reduction Fund method. This new method will drive investment in mangrove habitat restoration and conservation and reduce carbon emissions.
Consequently, high-school students have influenced national climate change policy and carbon reduction. Students also informed GBR tidal wetland management by identifying priority areas for action, and improved our overall scientific understanding of wetlands.
The benefits of this project extend beyond policy and management outcomes. Using MangroveWatch methodology, teachers have provided students with hands on experience in tidal wetland science. This serves to increase community awareness of the value and vulnerability of GBR tidal wetland habitats, and equips the future stakeholders of the GBR to become informed environmental stewards.
Terri Mulqueen, of Holloways Beach Environmental Education Centre, helped deliver the program. She reflects,
“The Program is unique because not only does it fit into the senior science curriculum, it allows participants the opportunity to collect meaningful data that is used to monitor and preserve mangrove areas and inform policy. More school groups are now choosing to come to our centre to study mangroves.”
To support on-going engagement, there are now six free curriculum-based tidal wetland citizen science lesson plans, five publicly available instructional video resources, and two case studies documenting program outputs for local management agencies, GBR traditional owners and community environmental advocacy groups.
This program illustrates how citizen science can be successfully tailored to a student audience and embedded in education curriculum. Based on the resounding success and impact of the students’ work, Earthwatch Australia will continue to engage students in data collection activities and increase their agency in protecting the tidal wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef.
MangroveWatch citizen science lesson plans are available free for download from Cool Australia
For more information on Earthwatch’s Tidal Wetland citizen science programs visit: Tidal Wetlands Program