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High school students get water wise

Cooktown State High School students joined Cape York NRM to learn more about the region’s waterways during a Water Quality Field Day held in April.

“We had 19 students come out with us to Isabella falls and take part in activities designed to teach them about the water cycle, why water quality matters, what affects water quality and how it can be monitored,” Cape York NRM Project Officer Harry James said.  

It was the second field trip taken this year following the trip with homeschooled students from the Cooktown region in March, as part of the Community Action Plan series of events being led by Cape York NRM.

“It was a great success! The students had an awesome time learning about water quality, catchment health, protecting the Reef and even had the chance to study ant plants that were one the site,” Harry said. 

“We had an extra session talking about not just how we measure water quality, but what we can do to improve it. I showed the kids the before and after photos of Clayhole and they were pretty impressed, they didn't believe it was the same place.”

Clayhole was a previously severely eroded gully site at Normanby Station which was remediated through earthworks, mulch and seeding. 

Harry said students also collected some data of their own of riparian transects, aquatic species and abiotic factors (non-living parts of an ecosystem such as temperature or light) for their biology and aquatic practices assessments. 

Seventeen-year-old CSS student Sienna, who is also the Community Action Plan Youth Ambassador, said: 

“The water monitoring field day with Cape York NRM was such a fun experience.”

“Learning about water quality gave me a whole new perspective on our waterways which I found so interesting. The best part of the day was being taught how to do the water quality monitoring and being able to do it ourselves!”

Water quality monitoring was tested using a secchi disk (which measures water clarity) and a turbidimeter (which gives turbidity reading in nephelometric turbidity units (NTUs)). 

The students also tried out water sampling and filtering techniques used in the Paddock to Reef Integrated Modelling, Monitoring and Reporting Program. 

Harry said over the next two months, the CAP team will carry out a review to get feedback on the Plan itself and how it is progressing with each priority project.

“We want the CAP project to keep delivering relevant community activities that go towards understanding, helping and protecting our waterways and our Reef for the future.”


This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation partnership; the Australian and Queensland governments’ Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program; and the Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Investment Program.