Issue 1
Monday, 26 February 2018
Charles Darwin University
A citizen scientist collects a water sample at Simpsons Gap
A citizen scientist collects a water sample at Simpsons Gap

Scientists examine Outback water samples

By Patrick Nelson

Environmental scientists at Charles Darwin University have begun analysing samples of water collected in the Australian Outback as part of a project to broaden knowledge about vital aquatic resources.

College of Engineering, IT and Environment Dean Professor Jenny Davis said that the first few samples, gathered by citizen scientists participating in the Outback Water Project, had included samples ranging from fresh to mildly salty.

“Results will help us develop a better understanding of how groundwater and surface water sustain arid zone waterholes throughout Central Australia,” Professor Davis said. “And they will also tell us more about the variability of rain events and floods that characterise the arid Outback.

“Over time, as more samples are analysed, we will be able to create maps that indicate how fresh or salty the waterbodies are and whether they are from rain that fell many years ago or much more recently.”

Professor Davis said researchers were measuring isotopic composition using isotope ratio infrared spectrometry in the Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology laboratory at Casuarina campus.

“Conductivity tells us how fresh or salty the water is, whereas the stable isotopic composition will provide information on local evaporation rates, humidity, size of rainfall events and the mixing of groundwater and surface water sources.”

Professor Davis urged anyone who planned to visit a waterhole in the MacDonnell Ranges or surrounding area in the near future to consider being a citizen scientist in this project.

She said vials and labels for recording location and date were available free of charge from Territory Natural Resource Management’s Jon Hodgetts ( or from the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre in the Todd Mall, Alice Springs.

This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.