Welcoming the next chapter of Streamwatch with GSLN

We've taken on Streamwatch!

Welcoming the next chapter of Streamwatch with GSLN

We've taken on Streamwatch!

Stronger Together -

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The issue

Streamwatch is an iconic Sydney institution. Founded by Sydney Water as part of their educational and public outreach, in the 1980s, the program expanded across schools, churches, communities, Landcare and Bushcare groups and council LGAs. Then, in the early 2010’s the Australian Museum adopted the program, continuing the good work of – and supporting – volunteers in taking meaningful stewardship of their backyard waterways.

Then in 2018, the Australian Museum announced that Streamwatch needed a more permanent, long term home – together with the volunteer-collected data records spanning much of the Sydney waterways. Numerous negotiations, talks and workshops were held – albeit unsuccessfully. With no government, corporate or NGO funding able to take on the program, and support the nearly 300 groups participating in the program, the future looked bleak.

The solution

The value in Streamwatch lies in its capacity and ability to draw the general public in – the approach of water monitoring, monthly, a locally important creek or waterbody brings an element of stewardship to local land management and fosters local champions to protect that river system. The 30 plus years of data already generated provides a valuable baseline from which further monitoring and current data collections can be compared. We recognised the value in connecting our volunteers – and indeed, the conduit of Streamwatch and citizen science into Landcare, Bushcare and environmental stewardship across the wider community – and began negotiations to take on Streamwatch, support volunteers and ensure the data longevity and security for the foreseeable future.

We’ll be holding volunteer consultation workshops over the next few months, to get a on-the-ground understanding of what Streamwatch looks like, and how we can continue supporting the next chapter of this program. We’ll review the tests chosen and Streamline the water monitoring process, to make the program and its’ support more accessible and financially viable – particularly for many of our smaller groups. And we hope to provide a dedicated position – subject to funding – to support the Streamwatch program long term.

The impact

Streamwatch – and with it almost 300 volunteers, plus 30 years of data – now has a new home. We’re proud of the heritage of this citizen science movement, and excited by the future of this iconic program. Data will be migrated to the SEED platform – an open government repository of environmental information hosted by the Environmental cluster within the NSW Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment. And whilst we’re holding taking on new volunteers until the new testing system is finalised, we’ll be offering all Streamwatch volunteers free membership to GSLN to enable them to become involved and active in our organisation, and to be insured and supported through the next chapter.

Learnings

The power and enthusiasm of citizen science is alive and well – there has been enormous interest from the general public about the future of the program.

A program of this size requires paid coordinator staff.

Funding is tight in the current economic and political climate, and the citizen science movement is suffering. More social entrepreneurship, and moving beyond the budget bottom line is necessary if valuable social services such as Streamwatch are to continue into the future.

Forecasting financial, HR and resource – particularly IP ownership – is critical to make an informed decision before adopting such a program. GSLN committed several discussions, and sessions with multiple stakeholders including Sydney Water, the current program coordinator and the Australian Museum before we agreeded to host Streamwatch.

Key facts

  • $50,000 funding commitment from Sydney Water
  • Migration of 30 years of information to the SEED platform
  • Potential reimagining of Streamwatch to acknowledge the next chapter

Project Partners