ADELAIDE AND MT LOFTY RANGES NRM REGION Project 1 AMLRNRMB Drain 4 gross pollutant trap catchment investigation Background The AMLRNRMB owns, operates and maintains 17 strategically located gross pollutant traps (GPT) within the Torrens and Patawalonga catchments. The GPT infrastructure includes either trash collection nets and / or floating booms. These GPT sites significantly reduce the amount of urban pollution entering the River Torrens, Sturt River drain, Patawalonga and ultimately the Gulf St Vincent. Drain 4 GPT is located north of Oaklands Road in Morphettville. This GPT is a series of trashrack nets which collect urban waste from 19 suburbs in Adelaide’s west prior to discharge into the Sturt River drain. The waste collected at this site consists of largely green waste and sediment (approximately 95%). On average 30 tonnes of waste is removed from this site annually. There is an ongoing maintenance issue present at Drain 4, whereby the frames holding the trash collection nets in place are corroding. These have been repaired on numerous occasions. The AMLRNRMB is interested to investigate the cause(s) of this corrosion and potential actions which can be taken to help inform an ongoing asset management plan for this site. Research Objectives Investigate impact of upstream urban catchment land uses and street-side vegetation on water quality and infrastructure maintenance requirements at the Drain 4 GPT site to help inform asset management and future catchment management options. Outcomes identify cause of ongoing maintenance problem for Drain 4 infrastructure cost analysis of maintaining Drain 4 infrastructure assessment of any potential downstream water quality impacts (i.e. if there is something in the catchment which is corroding the infrastructure, is this also a threat to downstream water quality?) list of potential options to reduce / minimise ongoing Drain 4 maintenance costs and to improve downstream water quality. Resources GIS data can be made available for: GPT location; urban sub-catchments boundaries; local government boundaries; suburbs; roads; and land use (etc). Water quality data can be made available for a one-off water sample taken in October 2011. Historical data can be made available for: trash collection weights and cleaning costs; and infrastructure maintenance costs. Project 2 AMLRNRMB gross pollutant trap catchment investigation Background The AMLRNRMB owns, operates and maintains 17 strategically located gross pollutant traps (GPT) within the Torrens and Patawalonga catchments. The GPT infrastructure includes either trash collection nets and / or floating booms. These GPT sites significantly reduce the amount of urban pollution entering the River Torrens, Sturt River drain, Patawalonga and ultimately the Gulf St Vincent. The waste collected by these GPTs consists of largely green waste and sediment (approximately 95%). On average approximately 600 tonnes of waste is removed from these GPTs annually. The AMLRNRMB is interested to investigate the relationships between land use and street-side vegetation and trash volumes collected by GPTs to help inform future street tree plantings and / or upstream catchment management practices (e.g. increased frequency of street sweeping). Research Objectives Investigate relationship(s) between the upstream catchment land uses and street-side vegetation types and volume of trash removed from GPTs to help inform future catchment management options. Outcomes Resources identify main types of vegetation within different GPT catchments assessment of relationship between land use and street-side vegetation type on trash volumes (graphical analysis) which land uses and street-side vegetation impact most on volumes collected in GPTs list of potential options for upstream catchment management. GIS data can be made available for: GPT locations; urban sub-catchments boundaries; local government boundaries; suburbs; roads; and land use. Historical data can be made available for trash collection weights and cleaning costs. Project 3 Disposal options for sediment from desilting operations Background The AMLRNRMB is responsible for maintaining a number of sediment basins within it’s region. The basins are located towards the lower end of river systems and are designed to trap coarse to fine sediment. As a consequence of operation, the basins need to be desilted at intervals ranging from 1 year to 5 years. The (weir 1) basin at the Patawalonga is the Board’s most significant basin, and receives flows from the entire up stream catchment. In previous years the Board has incurred great expense in disposal of sediment dredged from the Patawalonga weir 1 basin, largely because of the high concentrations of zinc. Concentrations are in excess of EPA guidelines and so require secure, high cost disposal. The Board anticipates having the dredge the basin in the next few years and is interested to understand more of the chemical composition on the accumulated sediments and following on from this acceptable options for low cost disposal. The scope of this work may be beyond the time of 6 months available to Honours students, but could be further broken down into stages which could be completed by successive students. Research Objectives Identify appropriate and lowest cost options for management and disposal of contaminated sediment dredged from the Patawalonga weir 1 basin. Outcomes Resources characterisation of sediment (chemical, particle size distribution) volume of sediment present, and contaminant loads Risk assessment of contaminants present in the sediment that informs management and disposal options. Identification of lowest cost disposal/management options. Historical records for desilting of the Patawalonga weir 1 basin. The Board can make funds available to pay for chemical and physical analysis of the sediment, and can also make available some peer review support. Project 4 Effectiveness of the Christie Creek sedimentation basin Background The AMLRNRMB and City of Onkaparinga collaborated on the construction of a major sedimentation basin on the lower Christie Creek at Lonsdale. The basin was located and constructed in response to the findings of the Adelaide Coastal Waters Study (ACWS) that recommended reducing sediment outfall to the Gulf St Vincent by 50%. The basin was consequently designed to reduce sediment outfall from the Christie Creek by this amount, and was commissioned in 2009. The Board owns and maintains a composite sampling station on Christie Creek at Christies Beach that has been collecting data since 2000. While the scope of data collected has changed over this time, records of turbidity should be available for the entire record. The Board and City of Onkaparinga are keen to investigate the effectiveness of the basin over the first 2 years of operation. This may include analysing water quality data for the period prior to basin operation and comparing this with data post-construction. It may also extend to collecting water samples from Christie Creek immediately prior to it entering the basin, samples from within the basin cells, and samples at the basin outlet back into Christie Creek. A sampling program would need to be carefully designed in order to collect the right data that can assist in assessing basin effectiveness. This may include sampling both water and sediment within the basin, and water from the creek. Timing of sampling is critical and a review of hydrographs and water quality results will determine when samples should be collected. Research Objectives Identify appropriate and lowest cost options for management and disposal of contaminated sediment dredged from the Patawalonga weir 1 basin. Outcomes Outcomes could include: Resources characterisation of total suspended sediments in Christie Creek from immediately upstream to downstream of the sedimentation basin. This would primarily include particle size distribution. characterisation of sediments in the Christie Creek sedimentation basin. This would primarily include particle size distribution, but could be extended to include geochemistry. A preliminary assessment of basin effectiveness based on the first 2 years of operation. All data relating to the Christie Creek composite gauging station. The Board can make funds available to pay for chemical and physical analysis of the water and sediment samples, and can also make available some peer review support. Project 5 Established constructed wetlands in Greater Adelaide stormwater reuse schemes – Design versus reality Background Greater Adelaide boasts many stormwater reuse schemes, and the Board has had some level of involvement in many of them. A constructed open-water wetland has been selected as the main stormwater treatment element in many of these schemes. Wetland design is a mature area of practice. Stormwater quality has been characterised, and tools are available to assist in the design of a wetland that produces a target water quality given the quality of the incoming stormwater. However, there is no structured body of knowledge about whether the design assumptions still hold for the many established wetlands in stormwater reuse schemes in Greater Adelaide – whether the incoming stormwater quality is as expected, whether the outgoing treated water quality is as expected, and whether the wetland performance is as expected. The value of this knowledge is in informing the management of existing operating stormwater reuse schemes, informing the planning of schemes in development, and informing the design of future schemes. Research Objectives Investigate the quality of water as it enters and leaves established constructed wetlands forming the main treatment elements of stormwater reuse schemes. Investigate wetland performance. Compare incoming and outgoing water quality and wetland performance with the original design. Consider wetland performance in light of wetland functional condition relative to its design, and considering possible temporal responses (e.g., seasonal, vegetation maturity/senescence). Outcomes Designers and operators of stormwater reuse schemes in Greater Adelaide are provided with better information about the quality of harvested stormwater and about the “real world” performance of local established wetlands taking into consideration temporal variations and the impacts of maintenance regimes on wetland functional condition. Resources Scheme operator contacts. Board Officer time to facilitate. Project 6 Breakout Creek Wetland – a better place for people, plants and animals Background The Board has transformed about 1.2 kilometres of River Torrens upstream of Tapleys Hill Road, across more than a decade, from a stormwater drain supporting grass and weeds, to a vibrant riverine ecosystem providing valuable habitat to a range of aquatic and terrestrial native plants and animals. As well as increasing biodiversity, the works have significantly increased accessibility and attractiveness to people. However, no work has been done to quantify the biodiversity and community benefits of the transformation. In addition, with further works possible downstream of Tapleys Hill Road in the future, a comparison of the biodiversity and community aspects of the unreconstructed river downstream of Tapleys Hill Road with the transformed section upstream would help inform future discussions. Research Objectives Quantify the biodiversity and community benefits of the Breakout Creek Wetland project and make comparisons to the unreconstructed watercourse downstream of Tapleys Hill Road. Outcomes The Board and the community are better informed about the benefits from the investment in the Breakout Creek Wetland project, and further quantification of benefits are available for discussions about possible future extensions of the Breakout Creek Wetland. Resources Board Officer time to facilitate. Project 7 AMLRNRMB Torrens Lake Hydrodynamic Responses to Flow Manipulation Background In collaboration with the City of Adelaide and the University of Adelaide, the AMLRNRM Board has been investigating management strategies for the Torrens Lake toxic cyanobacteria blooms that regularly occur in summer and often force the closure of the Lake to recreational users. The Torrens Taskforce in its 2007 report recommended a number of measures to improve the water quality of the River Torrens and the Lake. One option was to dilute the cyanobacteria in its growth stages in the Lake by applying a so called amenity flow so that dilution maintained good water quality and flows going through the Lake could be reused downstream in stormwater harvesting system facilities of local government thereby creating an innovative and, potentially an economic solution. There were a number of fundamental assumptions in the investigations that are to be physically tested over the next couple of summers. These assumptions relate to the mixing performance of the Lake under the amenity flows that are intended to replace the Lake’s total volume (approx 400ML) once every 10 days or so. Secondly, the species of cyanobacteria that dominates in the Lake and the effectiveness of dilution to contain their numbers to safe levels. This project concentrates on the former assumption of Lake mixing and involves further testing and enhancing the ELCOM model to investigate the real hydrodynamics of the Lake (Ref below). Research Objectives Further develop and apply the Torrens Lake ELCOM model to assess the mixing performance of amenity flows, investigate the scope of barriers in the Lake to improve mixing and minimise the amount of water required to manage the cyanobacteria problem. Detailed Lake water quality, algal, physical and flow data will be available from the summer of 2011/12 trail. Outcomes Outcomes could include: Resources Much improved calibrated ELCOM model for management of the Lake; Detailed understanding of the various hydrology and weather dynamics on the behaviour of the Lake; Determination if cost effective flow manipulation by flow or by introduced barriers is effective; Applied use of detailed suite of data on a real time management issue. Calibrated ELCOM model and host of data to assess various management options from the Board, University of Adelaide, City of Adelaide and SA Water Corporation. Possible Supervision Dr David Lewis, Chemical Engineering Faculty, University of Adelaide 3-D Hydrodynamic Modeling of the Torrens Lake – David Lewis University of Adel Project 8 AMLRNRMB Managing Cyanobacteria in the Torrens Lake Background In collaboration with the City of Adelaide and the University of Adelaide the AMLRNRM Board has been investigating management strategies for the Torrens Lake toxic cyanobacteria blooms that regularly occur in summer and often force the closure of the Lake to recreational users. The Torrens Taskforce in its 2007 report recommended a number of measures to improve the water quality of the River Torrens and the Lake. One option was to dilute the cyanobacteria in its growth stages in the Lake by so called amenity flows so that good water quality was maintained and flows going through the Lake could be reused downstream in stormwater harvesting system facilities of local government thereby creating an innovative and economic solution. There were number of fundamental assumptions in the investigations that are being physically tested over the next couple of summers. These are the mixing performance of the Lake under the amenity flows that are intended to replace the Lakes total volume once every 10 days or so. Secondly the species of cyanobacteria that dominates in the Lake and the effectiveness of dilution to contain their numbers to safe levels. This project concentrates on the latter assumptions. To date research by Dr Justin Brookes (Ref below) has found that the dominating (high risk) species are Anabaena circinalis and Microcystis flos-aquae. The possibility of other problem species needs to be assessed as do the growth rates of tall problem cyanobacteria to ensure the management plan considers the whole range of threats. Research Objectives To investigate the propensity of cyanobacteria species to bloom on the Lake and assess growth rates, impacts of management strategies, especially dilution flows on the performance of controls. Considerable data has been collected over the last decade and a thorough review of species growth (and collapse) under actual conditions needs to be investigated. Detailed Lake water quality, algal, physical and flow data will be available from the summer of 2011/12 trail. Outcomes Resources Assessment of problem cyanobacteria species in the Torrens Lake; Investigate the possibility of species (other than anabaena circinalis and Microcystis flos- aquae dominating in the Lake under management conditions; Thorough assessment of the data collected to date, and correlations with weather and hydrological conditions. Considerable historical data, info from 2011/12 flow trial, expertise from Adelaide Uni. Possible Supervision Dr Justin Brookes & Dr Kane Aldridge, Environmental Biology Faculty, Uni of Adelaide The Feasibility of Dilution Flows for Cyanobacteria Management in the Torrens Lake – Justin Brookes – University of Adelaide DEPARTMENT FOR WATER Project 9 Testing of the e-Waters Source Rivers GSWIT package as a potential tool for Surface Water and Groundwater interaction modelling in SA E-waters’ Source Rivers modelling framework, currently under development, includes the facility to model the interaction of surface waters and include groundwater flux at the river reach scale. The GSWIT is designed as a surface water model package and includes using simplified equations and assumptions to calculate groundwater flux interacting with the surface water model. Groundwater input component includes rainfall recharge, irrigation recharge and extractions which may impact on groundwater fluxes enter/out from surface water system. These groundwater impacts are poorly represented by existing surface water models. This project seeks to assess using the GWSIT in the South Australian context, and to provide feedback regarding its usability and suitability. Firstly, the GSWIT will be used to develop a detailed surface water model for whole River Murray (from Lock 6 to Lower Lake) in South Australia. The model will be compared with current surface water (BIGMOD) model to assess usability for surface water modelling. If the surface water model shows satisfactory results, the model will be used to test groundwater interaction component. Two following areas are proposed for the trial tests: 1. Loxton-Bookpurnong irrigation areas: irrigation mound and Salt Interception Scheme have occurred and this does not match the assumptions in GSWIT. This test may provide results to assess usability for model to be applied in areas where groundwater level changes significantly and driving groundwater flux in/out from the River Murray. 2. Lock 1 to Wellington: Groundwater level is steady, the River Murray pool level changes significantly and drives the groundwater flux in/out from the River Murray. The test will confirm applicability for areas where stream level controls groundwater flux. The project may be an opportunity to test potential link between GWSIT and groundwater (MODFLOW) model results. Groundwater flux in/out from surface water system is considered in GSWIT as one input option. The groundwater flux in/out from the River Murray is reasonable well understood in those areas through numerical groundwater models, however little has been done to incorporate this into existing surface water models. The major outcome of this assessment will be applicability (related to both input data and the package) of use of the GWSIT package for surface water modelling and interaction with groundwater model results, and to provide feedback regarding its usability and suitability. The student should be interested in surface water modelling and acknowledged that groundwater model results will be part of input to the surface model. The student may like to work in the DFW office with DFW staff. Groundwater Team in Science, Monitoring and Information Division will provide supervision from Surface and groundwater modellers, potential access to the models (if is required) and directions to collecting data and related information. Project 10 Keys to the main drivers of perched Fleurieu Peninsula Swamp (FPS) water supply security Fleurieu swamps occur across the landscape from plateaux surfaces to valley floors. Plateaux surface swamps are perched above deeply weathered bedrock, and rely on spatially unpredictable local hydrological processes. This results in highly differential water availability which affects swamp hydrology, vegetation character and total area. Development and land use are co-variables which contribute to differences in perched swamp hydrology, but the relative importance when compared with local flow systems and the interaction of all these factors is poorly understood. This project would map the relative water availability in Fleurieu swamps, and seek correlations between observed water availability, development levels and other physiographic variables as a means to improve understanding on these complex relationships in order to help direct management. The project would be a GIS/Remote sensing analysis, possibly (preferably) with groundtruthing of the vegetation character of swamps across a water availability gradient. Mapping and characterisation of water regime could be achieved through a remote sensing study of the Fleurieu based on satellite data collected at the end of summer to determine the levels of relative wetness (the dependent variable). A concurrent GIS approach (with spatial variables such as elevation, catchment size, water resource development level, soil landscape characteristics) would allow for landuse and physiographic characteristics to be summarised for each wetlands. Could also include some statistical analysis or modelling on the relative importance of the different variables on FPS hydrology, viz land use, hydrogeological class, landscape setting/soil type, stream order/catchment size, topography and water resource development levels. Such analyses could use any of several techniques including multivariate statistics (clustering, ordination), multiple linear regression, mixed effects models or perhaps Bayesian belief networks might be useful. The student should have interest and preferably skills in remote sensing and GIS. The Department could potentially provide co-supervision and much of the data required to do the GIS analysis. The project would easily be extendable to a PhD or Masters to further develop models of swamp condition as a function of water availability. SA MURRAY DARLING BASIN NRM REGION Project 11 Is community capacity building towards improved biodiversity management occurring in the SA MDB NRM Region? Description The SA MDB NRM board has a Management Action Target (B1.4) to improve community appreciation of native ecosystems and species. Some of the actions associated with this target are; Raise awareness and provide technical information about ecosystem services, native ecosystems and the protection and management of native species. Build community skills, knowledge and capacity to protect and manage native ecosystems and species Provide the wider community with incentives to protect manage and restore the landscapes of the Region. There is a wide diversity of interest’s concerning biodiversity amongst communities and organizations across the region. Similarly there are a wide variety of potential delivery partners which assist the Board in raising awareness, equipping and building community skills for their biodiversity needs. It is presumed that as a result of providing advice, learning and knowledge, that many community groups are getting involved in preserving their local biodiversity by undertaking activities such as regeneration, re-vegetation, pest and animal control for biodiversity outcomes. The Board would like to quantify the extent of community capacity for undertaking Natural Resource Management on their properties in their region, and the extent of Board’s role in building this capacity. Project Key Outcomes: Are Board programs building capacity? Are community groups learning how to achieve and manage their biodiversity objectives? Are community groups / individuals finding the Boards delivery partners (Conservation NGO’s, LAP’s, Bush management advisors) to get the right advice for NRM management, or are they using private operators (Greening Aus, Tree’s for life)? The Board predicts the results of these investigations will be dependant on the location, and therefore expect the project would have a spatial component. Support Available: Foundational knowledge and data for design and establishment of study Access to pool vehicle / phone use (if based in Murray Bridge). Access to network of established contacts in land managers, agency staff and community groups. GIS support Some cash funding may be available depending on timing. Project 12 Economic value of damage caused in production systems by the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat. Description: The SA MDB NRM board has a Management Action Target (MAT) to improve the condition of existing native ecosystems, which includes the provision of support to land managers, local government and industry regarding the impacts and management of native species. The Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat was listed as a near threatened species and in probable decline within the Murraylands of South Australia by DENR’s Regional Species Conservation Assessment Project – Phase 1, Species Assessments, July 2010. (Gillam 2010) Although a declining species in the Murraylands, the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat are considered by many primary producers as a pest, because they can damage infrastructure such as tanks, fences and sheds or create large warren systems that can damage machinery or begin erosion problems. Therefore as the species is an impact causing native species, landholders can apply to the Department for Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for a permit to destroy the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat. Whilst wombats can cause undesirable impacts for farmers and landholders, at the same time they suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, illegal culling and drought, creating concern over future conservation of the species. Within the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin over the last 5 years there has been an increasing amount of scientific, community engagement and management work undertaken on the wombats of the Murraylands. Partners such as the NRM Board, Conservation Ark, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation Volunteers Australia, the University of Adelaide, the Flinders University and Wombat Awareness Organization have all been involved in various projects that have begun the process of understanding, using appropriate management and learning to live with wombats. Still, information gaps exist, and the SA MDB NRM Board seek to partner with researchers to investigate and estimate the economic value of the damaged caused in production systems by Southern HairyNosed Wombats. Project Key Outcomes: To estimate the economic value of damaged caused in production systems by Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats. By; - Collating available data and estimating temporal and spatial patterns in agricultural impacts of wombats in the SA MDB NRM region. Undertake field assessment to inspect and classify the damage, and develop a methodology for rapidly quantifying agricultural impacts, and associated costs. Support Available: Assistance to leverage funding Possible access to pool vehicle and office resource Access to existing work undertaken by partnering organizations on Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, including land managers, agency staff and community groups. GIS support Some cash funding may be available depending on timing. Project 13 Improved Native Pasture management and relationship with movement of Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Description: There is a long history of grazing practice in the SA MDB NRM board region resulting in change of the landscape, with consequences for flora and fauna. Traditionally, native pastures were continuously grazed at the same time each year. Over time, this has reduced the population of native perennial grasses and produced pastures dominated by annual grasses. However, recent investigations into managing native pastures in South Australia for improved animal production and biodiversity developed best practice to help woolgrowers conserve and improve native pasture biodiversity by rotational grazing and to lift profits through increased production. As a result there has been an improvement to ecosystem function of native pastures (Land and Water Australia 2007). The Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons), although not threatened, is known as a species of regional significance as it is the faunal emblem of South Australia. Although once widespread in semi arid regions of Southern Australia, this species is now restricted to isolated populations. Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats are burrowing animals that usually inhabit mallee and stipa grasslands that have limestone rock shelves. It is this burrowing activity that creates the most conflict between agricultural land uses and the species, as wombats can damage infrastructure such as tanks, fences and sheds or create large warren systems that can damage machinery or begin erosion problems. A long term study of Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats has been occurring in the Murraylands examining population dynamics, assisted reproduction, seasonal breeding patterns, disease and their relationship to climatic variables. Farmer surveys have recently indicated an increase in wombat numbers particularly toward the north and westerly regions and an expansion of the distribution in these areas. In recent years, the numbers and distribution of the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat appear to have changed in some parts of the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin. Wombats have been observed in areas where historically they have not been seen. It is not known whether the wombats’ distribution is changing because of improved grazing practices in the Morgan/Swan Reach /Cambrai Murraylands. Project Key Outcomes: To determine if improved native pasture management is encouraging movement of the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats in the SA NRM Board region. Map historical location and current locations of the Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat across the SA MDB NRM Region, using historical data and that from recent state government Wombat distribution Survey. Map native pasture management practices across the SA MDB NRM Region – using GIS to determine changes/improvement in native vegetation cover in past decade. Determine if an association exists between Southern Hairy Nosed population re-location and improved native pasture management. Support Available: Assistance to leverage funding Foundational knowledge and data for design and establishment of study Access to pool vehicle Access to network of established contacts in land managers, agency staff and community groups. GIS support Assistance in accessing properties - 5 established trial sites, access. Some cash funding may be available depending on timing. Project 14 Determining if the Australian Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) is an increasing species in the SA MDB NRM Region. Description: The Australian Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) is a species of rat occurring in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia. The SA MDB NRM Regional Plan – State of the Region Report, lists Swamp Rat as having a “rare” state status of conservation significance. According to the Natural history of the Strathalbyn and Goolwa districts the Australian Swamp Rat “Wood-Jones(1925)wrote that he knew of only one locality where it was presently living and of only 1 specimen in the S.A. Museum”. Natural History of the Strathalbyn and Goolwa Districts-Strathalbyn Naturalists Club Inc. There are other references in this document that suggest the numbers steadily increased from about 1966. However, anecdotal evidence is suggesting that Australian Swamp Rat populations are increasing to the point where they are now being found well away from water sources and there are fears they are becoming an overabundant native animal. The anecdotal evidence is also suggesting that the threats associated with the overabundance of swamp rats includes; a threat to native remnant vegetation (eating of lily and orchid bulbs, general disturbance of soil, and undermining of native species and exposure of root systems e.g. Hakea spp having fallen over and died as a result of undermining). Note: Proteacea do not to like root disturbance. crop damage adjacent to remnant vegetation and stream bank erosion and ensuing sediments entering the river from furrowing erosion to and undermining of engineered structures such as levy banks(eg Langhorne Creek Levy on the Bremer River), stormwater structures, roads and culverts. Damage to home gardens in urban and peri-urban areas of Strathalbyn, Langhorne Creek, Finniss, and Willyaroo. Possibly having some benefit in native vegetation through eating bulbous weeds such as sour sob and nut grass. Project Key Outcomes: Estimate the current population survey of the Australian Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) Determine the extent of threats caused (if any) by the Australian Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) Determine if the Australian Swamp Rat is an increasing species, declining species or subject to cyclical boom and bust periods Support Available: Foundational knowledge and data for design and establishment of study Access to network of established contacts in the community via Local Action Planning groups, DENR staff and other conservation organisations. GIS support Some cash funding may be available depending on timing. Project 15 Assessing effectiveness of Management Actions during recent floods. Description: Water resources across the state are under increasing pressures due to ever increasing demands for water. Therefore, the SA MDB NRM board believes it is critical that the region fully assesses the risks to the quantity and quality of its water resources, both in the short and long terms. This will support appropriate proactive management decisions for the protection of the resource. Lower River Murray wetlands and floodplains have experienced severe degradation over the prolonged drought. Management interventions specifically pumping temporary wetlands were undertaken during this time in order to sustain long lived vegetation, and maintain a range of water dependent flora and fauna. Higher flows received into South Australia since mid 2010 has temporarily improved the system, enabling wetlands to be re-inundated, overbank flooding and the Murray Mouth to flow. However, it is unknown how long these improved flows will be sustained and another prolonged drought is likely. An investigation into the success or failure of the various management actions undertaken during the drought is required. An analysis of these actions will be vital for future management during drought conditions and has the potential to provide valuable insights into the resilience of the system. Project Key Outcomes: This project could focus on a particular species (e.g. Red gums, macro-invertebrates) or Incorporate a range of parameters that can be used to assess system health. Support Available: Foundational knowledge and data for design and establishment of study Historical data Additional Field Staff (negotiable) Some field equipment Project 16 Investigate the impacts of invasive fish species (Gambusia holbrooki) on frog populations in the lower River Murray wetlands and options for management. Description: Clearance, land use, management change and pest invasion have contributed significantly to the decline in extent and condition of aquatic habitats. Pest fish are a significant problem within the region. The MDB NRM region has a resource condition target that states by 2030, water-dependent ecosystems in priority areas maintain ecological function, resilience and biodiversity. The introduction of the predatory fish Gambusia holbrooki has been known to decimate frog populations in wetlands and water ways; however, the impacts on frog species in lower River Murray wetlands is mostly unknown. To determine the impacts (if any) of this fish on frogs (including the threatened species Southern Bell Frog (Lioria raniformis) in River Murray wetlands a number of investigations are required. Project Key Outcomes: baseline information on the distribution and abundance of Gamusia holbrooki and frog populations across lower River Murray wetlands, and an investigation into whether or not this species is predating on frog larvae, impacts of Gambusia holbrooki on native fish, whether native fish or other introduced species are predating on frog larvae, any other projects investigating this topic. Support Available: Foundational knowledge and data for design and establishment of study Frog Monitoring Kits / Fish nets Additional Field Staff (negotiable) Historical data. NORTHERN AND YORKE NRM REGION Project 16 Investigation of the current condition of catchment areas in mid-north South Australia with a focus on vegetation composition and biodiversity associated with permanent pools Project key outcomes: - On-ground vegetation surveys - Establish Bushland Condition Monitoring sites - Utilise AusRivAS river assessment protocols - Produce spatial maps of distribution Project timeframe: Timeframe is flexible as this is an ongoing program being rolled out across the catchments throughout the Northern and Yorke NRM Region. Support (in-kind or cash) that could be provided: NRM staff could provide in-kind support of staff time for co-ordination and supervision of project planning and field work as required Project 17 To construct a long term project plan to address management of riparian weeds across the entire Willochra Creek catchment area in the Southern Flinders Ranges Project key outcomes: - Create a list of priority riparian weeds to be targeted Spatial maps of known weed distribution Produce a prioritised project plan of the most effective way of achieving riparian weed management across the catchment Work in conjunction with Local Government Project timeframe: Timeframe is flexible, currently the project is in the early concept phase so assistance within 2012 would be ideal timing Support (in-kind or cash) that could be provided: NRM staff could provide in-kind support of staff time for co-ordination and supervision of project planning and field work as required Project 18 Multiple projects investigating Opuntia dynamics Background The State Opuntia Taskforce, formed in 2008, seeks to coordinate and improve the management of the invasive opuntioid weeds, the most prominent being wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta) in SA. The Taskforce is a collaboration of the SA Arid Lands, Northern and Yorke, SA Murray-Darling Basin and Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Boards, and is supported by Biosecurity SA. Wheel cactus is an escaped garden plant that has invaded large areas of semi-arid landscapes, and has potential to extend its range under climate change scenarios, and to infill within its current range. The Opuntioid State Management Plan (Biosecurity SA, 2010) details the area of wheel cactus distribution by NRM region. Significant mechanical and chemical control works have been undertaken and progress is being made in reducing mature stands of wheel cactus, however in many areas the physical inaccessibility of the site limits the ease of control works. A key gain in recent years has been a growing landholder awareness facilitated through the NRM Boards, of the potential risk associated with inaction. The NRM Boards have provided financial assistance and technical expertise to facilitate a change of thinking in affected landholders. Context A project proposal was previously prepared for PhD canditure, but was unsuccessful. This project was to be supervised by Dr Fleur Tiver (Uni SA). Preference for consideration of this project proposal is for Uni SA. Outcomes Sought Two separate sub-projects are outlined. These could be further subdivided into component projects in discussion with the research supervisor. Project A: Quantifying the impact of weeds of significance on biodiversity. Determine the ecosystems that Wheel Cactus has the potential to invade, and also quantify the impact on those ecosystems, once invaded. Questions to answer: (a) What ecosystems (rocky hilltops, gullies, floodplains, creek-beds) are known to be invaded by Wheel Cactus? What ecosystems, if any, do not appear to be invaded? (b) Once an ecosystem is invaded, what are the effects on cover, density and frequency of native plant species; abundance of native birds and animals; abundance of soil organisms; soil fertility? (c) is there a correlation with pest animal carriers e.g. feral goat density? Project B: Understanding methods of dispersal for wheel cactus. It is anecdotally suggested that seed and vegetative dispersal is facilitated by birds and feral animals, however this has not been scientifically established. Determine a more detailed understanding of how wheel cactus disperses to new locations, to allow the development of management strategies that prevent dispersal and spread. Questions to answer: (a) Which vertebrates are dispersal agents? Crows, emus, galahs, goats and foxes have been anecdotally observed to eat the fruits. (b) What is the significance of each mode of dispersal: ingested seeds or plant parts attached to animal hide? Seeds are dispersed when vertebrates eat the fruit and deposit the seed at distance in their faeces. Wheel Cactus leaf-pads have hooked spines that can attach to the wool of sheep or the hair of goats, and could potentially then be carried some distance. Goats are known to disperse on their coats various species of Opuntia in South America (Petit S. The Native Cacti of Curacao) (c) What is the dispersal range of Wheel Cactus that can potentially be achieved by vertebrates? How far can an animal or bird carry a seed or fragment? (d) What is the survival time for seeds and plant parts? How long will seeds remain intact in the gut before being deposited in faeces? How far can a goat or sheep carry a plant fragment before it falls off? In-kind N&Y NRM will provide a contact officer who will provide introductions that will enable a student to gain access to infestations on private property, and access to agency and landholder held anecdotal information. A communications plan will be prepared to inform community of the project and N&Y NRM will undertake to communicate progress of the project at community meetings and forums, and in NRM publications. SOUTH EAST NRM REGION Project 19 The Impact of Off Road Vehicles on Coastal Environments Management of vehicle access along the coast is a high priority of the Coastal Management Strategy and addressing this issue remains a key objective of Limestone Coast and Coorong Coastal Management Group. This project would investigate the impacts of vehicles on beaches along the Coorong and Limestone Coast, which could then be used to develop a strategy to manage vehicle impacts in this coastal zone. The investigation will endeavour to determine the impacts of recreational vehicles on the nature and conservation value of beaches in the South East of South Australia. Using the information from the investigation in addition to current knowledge and best practice, a strategy will be developed to manage coastal access along the Coorong and Limestone and Coast. (Note: Flinders University has been approached regarding this study – but funding was not available at the time) Project key outcomes : It was envisioned that the study would compare three treatments including: Beaches with no current or historical vehicular access; Beaches closed to vehicle access during the project to determine changes, and; Beaches with ongoing vehicular access. The key questions to be answered include:Is there a difference between the three treatments of the following: numbers of vehicles and area disturbed by vehicles, beach profiles, erosion and sand disturbance, invertebrate density and diversity, shorebird use and nesting success, and changes to vegetation cover. The key results of this project are to document and publicise the current environmental impacts of vehicles in the coastal zone and develop a strategy to manage the impacts. Due to the topical nature of this project, the results of this study will be then be communicated through public forums, field days, media articles and the development of information sheets. Project timeframe: This project has the capacity to range from multiple honours or masters projects to one PhD. Support offered: Technical support about historic knowledge of the species and the coastal environment of the SE Region. Access to the site and associated monitoring equipment as needed (or if available). Accommodation for the post-graduate will be provided by DEH on-site while undertaking field work. Some assistance with funding applications to source funding. There is some potential funding through current budgets, dependant on availability at time. Volunteer networks and technical support from shore-bird experts in the SE Region. Project 20 Determining Hydrological Drivers of “Death Hole”, Karst Sinkhole (Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem) near Beachport, South Australia. Background: Currently the main groundwater resource used in the Rivoli Bay region is the Confined Aquifer due to the unique ”mound” of Dilwyn Formation (Dilwyn Mound)located under Burkes Island between Beachport and South End. Death Hole is a small Karst Sinkhole centred over the Dilwyn Mound and anecdotal evidence suggests this wetland receives some of its Environmental Water Requirements from the Tertiary Confined Aquifer (Dilwyn Formation). This would make it the only known wetland in the South East that depends on water from the Confined Aquifer to support its ecology and potentially places it amongst one of the most unique and rarest wetland types in the region. Determining the level of dependence on confined aquifer water is required to sustainably manage the confined water resource in this area. Level of research required: A great deal of information is already available to start determining groundwater sources of Death Hole. Detailed investigation of SA Geodata, Seismic information and Observation wells shall determine the level of additional field work required to determine inputs to the pond however as a minimum the following investigations are anticipated: Hydrochemical sampling and analysis of water from Death Hole and surrounding Dilwyn observation bores (preferably one round of sampling per season over 12 months). Sonde death hole at a number of locations to determine any points of unusual parameters that could indicate confined aquifer water discharge installing a level/EC data logger (surveyed to m AHD) for a period of 12 months to record how the water level changes over time and relate this back to confined and unconfined observation bores in the area map depths and features (using diving and canoe) of pond and reference back to m AHD reference point installed when logger and water level is surveyed – holding capacity and 3D model of site could then be produced. detailed ecological surveying of the pond for unique/important aquatic ecological assets such as Stygofauna, fish, crustaceans, etc. Brief field visits to date have identified one nationally listed species (Yarra Pygmy Perch), one fish species listed as “critically endangered” in the SA State Action Plan for freshwater fishes 2008 (Australian Mudfish), and a species of stygofaunal amphipod believed to be linked to discharge of confined aquifer water (Lejks, pers coms 2011) Guidance on hydrogeological investigation is likely to involve DfW whilst ecological aspects of the work would be guided by DENR. It is expected that there would be around 12 months supervision by DENR/DfW however the level of supervision/involvement by both government agencies would be minor. Project 21 Southern Bentwing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii) Description: Southern Bentwing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii) has a limited distribution, only known from the South East of South Australia and South West of Victoria. This taxon faces extinction in the immediate future, it is one of only three extant Australian mammals currently listed as Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. M. s. bassanii is cave dependant and utilises only two large maternity caves, Bat Cave at Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia and Starlight Cave near Warnambool, Victoria. The population in South Australia’s maternity cave has declined from 36 000 to 30 000 in only 6 years. The actions required to arrest the decline need to be both urgent and comprehensive. There have been a significant number of studies undertaken in the past on the biology and ecology of this species (e.g. Dwyer 1963a,b, 1966a,b, 1969; Dwyer and Hamilton-Smith 1965; Hamiton-Smith 1965, 1967; Seebeck and Hamiton-Smith 1967; Dwyer and Harris 1973; Dunsmore et al. 1974; Hall 1982; Baudinette et al. 1994). The latest study of the M. s. bassanii revealed the activity budget of this species during roosting (Codd et al., 2003). The most recent study conducted is yet to be published (C. Grant, pers. comm. 2009). In spite of the studies mentioned, there is still a lot of knowledge gaps in the ecology of the species. For example, a study on the habitat requirements of this species is lacking. In addition little is known of the causes of the decline in their population. Further studies are required to build on existing knowledge to increase our understanding of the habitat preferences and cause of decline in M. s. bassanii. There is a National Recovery Plan in preparation and the Regional Action Plan for the Southern Bentwing Bat in the South East of South Australia was produced in 2009. Project key outcomes: Large to medium scale questions: What are the feeding habitat requirements of M. s. bassanii? Comparing a dietary analysis with invertebrate collection in the surrounding habitats of Naracoorte maternity cave. Which areas of habitat are most important to conserve for the persistence of M. s. bassanii in the South East Region? What are the factors that affect M. s. bassanii choice of over-wintering caves? Are we restoring the right caves? This would include the corresponding assumption that all over-wintering caves are identified in the SE. What is the impact of wind turbines on M. s. bassanii? There is evidence in USA and Canada of wind turbines killing bats in migration paths. Given the increase of wind farms in the South East is this occurring in Australia? Fine scale questions: What are the current micro-climate parameters in the two maternity caves (Naracoorte and Starlight)? How does this compare to optimum microclimates for maternity caves? Assessment of cave microclimate optimum for M. s. bassanii vs. actual What is level of interaction is there between SA and Vic populations of M. s. bassanii? Do M. s. bassanii always use the same maternity cave? Demographic study undertaken on Naracoorte M. s. bassanii population to identify the overall population trend. What is the best gate design for M. s. bassanii over-wintering caves? The gate design needs to stop people but not deter M. s. bassanii from using the restored caves. What evidence of pollutants are there in floor cores in the two maternity M. s. bassanii caves (Naracoorte and Starlight)? Gaining an understanding of historical pollutants that may have contributed to M. s. bassanii decline. What is the current extent of pesticide use that were identified to have an impact on M. s. bassanii in the South East? Project timeframe: This template has outlined a number of projects. Many of the projects will require studies that extend over three years at a PhD level. However, there are also projects listed that would lend themselves to a discrete honours year project. Support (in-kind or cash) that could be provided: DENR SE can provide: Technical support about historic knowledge of the species and the SE Region. Access to the site and associated monitoring equipment as needed. Accommodation at Naracoorte Caves. Some assistance with funding applications to source funding. Project 22 Effects of Sea-wheat Grass on Coastal Morphology and Beach Nesting Birds Description:The exotic weed Sea -wheat grass (Thinopyrum junceiforme) has established itself along the foredunes of Canunda National Park and further north along other sections of the SE Coast. Observations over several years indicate that this invasive weed is becoming more prevalent occupying niches where the indigenous Coastal Sand spinifex (Spinifex sericeus) normally grows. A major negative impact of the establishment this plant is that it's density and root structure creates a cliff like edge along the sea side of the foredune. It is assumed that the change in morphology creates a barrier to young beach dwelling birds, such as the Hooded Plover (State listed vulnerable), Red-capped plover and Pied-oystercatcher, which all need to regularly escape high tides and encroaching waves. Without the escape route they may be swept away and drowned. Controlling, or ideally eradicating this weed, will prevent the beach foredune changing from a gentle slope to a cliff type shape. Project key outcomes: What is the measurable effects of Sea-wheat Grass on: Beach and dune morphology; Sediment transportation processes and regional coastal erosion issues; and, The breeding success of beach nesting shore-birds. Can control or eradication of Sea-wheat Grass revert the beach and dune morphology to pre-invasion status? Project timeframe: This would be a post-graduate research project. It has the potential to be run as one larger PhD or several masters or honours projects. Support available: Technical support about historic knowledge of the species and the coastal environment of the SE Region. Access to the site and associated monitoring equipment as needed (or if available). Accommodation for the post-graduate will be provided by DEH on-site while undertaking field work. Some assistance with funding applications to source funding. Also there is some potential funding through current budgets, dependant on availability at the time. Volunteer networks and technical support from shore-bird experts in the SE Region.