Citizen Science

‘I only see positive things in volunteering’

When Ana first moved from Columbia to Canberra to study in 2018, she felt like a fish out of water, eager to find her place in a foreign environment.

Volunteer with: Waterwatch

She got involved with Waterwatch through her coursework in Environmental Monitoring and Technology, where one of her subjects was wetlands.

Bruno, the Ginninderra Catchment Group Waterwatch Coordinator, took her class out to teach them about what Waterwatch does, including water quality testing and waterbug surveys.

‘Sometimes he’d need volunteers to help him out with some of the sites, so I would go with him, it was pretty casual, but I was really into it.’

She continued volunteering casually for a year. Then in 2019, Waterwatch needed a more consistent permanent volunteer for a site in Evatt.

‘Bruno thought of me and asked me if I wanted to take over this site. So, I have been looking after this site since 2019 and I’ve loved it.’

Ana goes out and tests the water at Evatt once a month.

Photo: OCSE

‘I did a bit of this stuff back in Colombia, with a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering. It was much more technical than natural, but I remember once a professor took us to a wetland to learn about waterbugs and water quality testing and I really liked being able to be outdoors.’

When asked whether she has any advice for young people wanting to get into volunteering, she says,

‘I actually love volunteering. When people ask me, I say ‘you should do it’.

I know we’re all really busy and we have so many things on, but this kind of thing is really valuable for your development as a person.

‘If you’re young and just starting your career, it’s great because you can make contacts, and people can get to know you and know your work. I only see positive things in volunteering.’

Ana fits her volunteering in around her regular workday; she goes in the morning to test the water quality and works a bit later at her job that day.

‘Being able to give something back to the community is awesome. That’s one of the things I love. Especially volunteering in nature – when I get here, all the stress disappears. I love nature, I think it’s really valuable.’

Ana’s patch that she monitors. Photo: OCSE

She has a couple of favourite moments.

‘I got to see a water rat (Rakali) once, which was really cool!

‘One time, I was doing waterbugs with Bruno, and we found this really weird waterbug. It was so hard to identify. Even Bruno, who is so experienced, couldn’t place it. So he sent it off to a colleague who was an expert and she found it for us – a rat-tailed maggot, which is the larvae of a kind of hover fly.’

Ana expressed her love of engaging with the community when out testing.

‘When you’re volunteering, a lot of people come to you and ask questions. I’ve found it interesting the level of curiosity from the community about the waterways and what you’re doing. I get to have nice chats with people who live around here.’

Moving from across the world, Ana has found that volunteering is a great way to get to know and care for her natural surroundings.

‘The work we do informs Canberra’s water management, so we are directly contributing to the health of these beautiful waterways.’

‘I’m really grateful to be living in Canberra, I love it. It feels awesome to be able to give something back to my new home and to experience the difference in environments here compared to Colombia.

‘Volunteering with Waterwatch definitely has changed my life.’

If you’d like to get involved with Waterwatch, get in touch with your local catchment group online here: Contact Us – Waterwatch.

Check out the Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch website for more information: Home – Waterwatch