Monitoring lagoon is a class act

Bayfield High School pupils and keen young scientists (from left) Emma Whiles Humphreys (14),...
Bayfield High School pupils and keen young scientists (from left) Emma Whiles Humphreys (14), Lucy McDermott (13), and Anika Franklyn (13) work with Ecotago scientist Andrew Innes on water testing at Tomahawk Lagoon this week. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
A team of young scientists from Bayfield High School donned waders and stepped carefully into the water at Tomahawk Lagoon on Tuesday, as part of its ongoing work with Ecotago on water quality and biodiversity testing.

Emma Whiles Humphreys, Lucy McDermott, and Anika Franklyn are among a keen group of Bayfield pupils, co-ordinated by science teacher Mel Pile, who regularly work with Ecotago scientist Andrew Innes to gather vital data for analysis.

This week, the pupils were using a syringe fitted with a special filter to collect samples for DNA analysis in the laboratory.

Emma said taking part in the hands-on science project was "fun and a really good way to learn how to use different kinds of collecting and testing equipment".

"It gives us an insight into how this kind of science is done."

The girls have been part of the project since they were pupils at Tahuna Intermediate School and are keen to continue their involvement in the future.

"It gives us an insight into how this kind of important grassroots science is done," Emma said.

Since 2016, Ecotago Charitable Trust has been monitoring the health of Tomahawk Lagoon, with support from pupils of Bayfield High School, John McGlashan College, King’s High School, Otago Girls High School and Tahuna Intermediate.

Mr Innes said water quality monitoring at the lagoon had been expanded to include biodiversity monitoring during the past 18 months.

And although the monitoring had been made more difficult by the Covid-19 pandemic, the pupils had been keen to participate throughout.

"In particular, we have had a group of senior boys from King’s High School who have organised themselves independently, and have been absolute champions during the pandemic," Mr Innes said.

Funding from the Otago Regional Council for the project recognised the importance of Tomahawk Lagoon as a waterway and that was heartening, he said.

The ORC had contracted environmental consultancy firm Cawthron to do an ecological assessment of the lagoon, taking into account the information collected by Ecotago and the pupils, and would present a report in mid-2023.

Mr Innes was also delighted with the formation of the Tomahawk Lagoon Catchment Group to help drive the work forward and bring stakeholders together.

"It is a really exciting partnership, and will help bring new energy to the project," he said.

"Our monitoring has shown that the water quality in the lagoon is not great, and there have been no significant improvements over the past six years.

"So, if we can find ways to manage the catchment better, that will be good for everyone."

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