What are we swimming in? Wanaka citizen scientists investigate video

Marjorie Cook/Fairfax NZ

Scientist Chris Arbuckle has launched Wanaka's citizen science project.

Lake Wanaka is a watersports destination but what exactly - apart from old fashioned H2O - are we swimming in?

Citizen scientists are investigating what drains into the lake, following grants totalling just over $18,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Curious Minds fund and the Sargood Bequest.

The project involves students from Mount Aspiring College and Wanaka Primary School, water ginger group Touchstone, the Wanaka Lake Swimmers Club and Aspiring Environmental.

Environmental scientist Chris Arbuckle with Wanaka citizen science project partners, clockwise from left front, Hazel ...
Marjorie Cook

Environmental scientist Chris Arbuckle with Wanaka citizen science project partners, clockwise from left front, Hazel Murray, Laura Watkins, Doug Robinson, Anna edwards, Florence Micoud, Alex Mitchell, Sarah Millis and Christopher Wood.

The partners agreed a water quality monitoring project would help people understand what is affecting water quality and recreational values in Roys Bay.

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The project "What Are We Swimming In?" was launched on May 25 at Eely Point.

Mt Aspiring College Team Green coordinator Florence Micoud, right. Hazel Murray, 12, and Laura Watkins, 11, front.
Sarah ...
Marjorie Cook

Mt Aspiring College Team Green coordinator Florence Micoud, right. Hazel Murray, 12, and Laura Watkins, 11, front. Sarah Millis, 17 (partly obscured), Alex Mitchell, 17, Sarah Anna Edwards, 17, and Christopher Wood, 17, back.

The citizen scientists want to address local swimmers' concerns about lake scum and changes seen in the lake over several years.

Laura Watkins, 11, is excited about the project.

"I do sailing here in the summer. We have the lake snot and all the algae and stuff . . . The stuff on rocks is real slippery and it is clogging up the water supply," she said.

Laura Watkins, 11, is a keen sailor and loves Lake Wanaka.
Marjorie Cook

Laura Watkins, 11, is a keen sailor and loves Lake Wanaka.

Team Green members were motivated to take part in the drains study "to help the environment and the community", Watkins said.

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"My class has already met with [Queenstown Lakes District Council project manager] Rob Darby and shown maps of the drains," she said.

Swimmer Doug Robinson shares Laura's concerns.

What's in the water? Citizen scientists are investigating.
Marjorie Cook

What's in the water? Citizen scientists are investigating.

"Just swimming around Ruby Island you usually pick up the lake scum on the body," he said.

The project leader is environmental scientist and Touchstone co-founder Chris Arbuckle, of Dunedin.

The "fantastic" grants would support the "young and not so young budding scientists" in understanding the challenges around water quality management and issues such as storm water quality.

"This funding is all about local people participating in science and that's what Touchstone's all about, doing stuff with people in the catchment," Arbuckle said.

"What Are We Swimming In?"  is also supported by experts from Catchments Otago, Otago University's Zoology Department and Otago Regional Council science staff, Arbuckle said..

The project's first public workshop will be on June 15.

A public symposium in December and a stall at the 2018 Wanaka Show are also being planned.

MORE INFO: www.touchstone.org.nz and project members' Facebook sites.

 - Stuff

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