Scientist for a day: Councillor Steve Jones

Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) scientist, Elke Reichwaldt, was recently joined by Shire of Denmark Councillor Steve Jones for one of the regular water quality monitoring runs on Wilson Inlet.

Water quality indicators, including oxygen level, salinity, nutrient levels and algae, are measured once a fortnight by department staff across the six estuaries including Wilson Inlet and Oyster Harbour. This data is used to track changes in the estuaries, evaluate long-term actions in catchments and provides the foundation for hydrodynamic estuary models.

Cr Jones, who is also the Council representative on the Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee, joined Elke to improve his understanding of Wilson Inlet and what is happening to protect it.

“I wanted to come out monitoring to have a better understanding of what DWER is researching and what that research can do to help maintain, if not improve, the inlet,” Cr Jones said.

“From a personal perspective I want future generations to have the same experience as I’m enjoying today. I really value the natural environment and I think we need to do everything that we can to at least maintain it at the level that it’s currently  at and ideally to see it improve.

“From a council perspective the inlet is an incredibly important natural resource for our community. Both for our residents that enjoy it on a regular, daily basis and from an economic perspective – tourism is incredibly important to our shire.”

Elke said that Cr Jones was a big help sampling throughout the day and was eager to find out more about how DWER’s  South Coast team monitors Wilson Inlet.

“Steve quickly picked up how complex the interactions within Wilson Inlet are,” Elke said.

“We talked about how nutrients, seagrass, algae and bacteria all play different roles in the ecosystem, their relationship with oxygen levels and how the bar opening affects the Inlet.

“He was also excited to get involved in the more nitty-gritty side of the science – why we rinse our sample bottles three times, how we take samples from the surface and from close to the sediments.

“It gave me a fresh perspective on tasks that are pretty routine to us.”

Cr Jones’ excursion on the Wilson Inlet water quality run coincides with the development of a water quality improvement plan for the Wilson Inlet.