Why wetlands matter to people

August 17, 2017

Wonderful wetlands: A Murdoch student wants to learn about community attitudes to the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands

Wonderful wetlands: A Murdoch student wants to learn about community attitudes to the Vasse Wonnerup wetlands (Pic: Dr James Tweedley)

A Murdoch study is injecting a human element into scientific research projects at a significant Western Australian wetland system.

Shivani Purushothaman’s PhD research focuses on understanding the value of the Vasse-Wonnerup wetlands in the south west of the State to the people who live in surrounding communities.

The Vasse-Wonnerup, a nationally significant Ramsar-listed wetland, is home to more than 37,500 water birds from 90 different species, over 30 fish species and the largest regular breeding colony of Black Swan in south-western Australia.

As part of her study, Ms Purushothaman has interviewed locals and is conducting an online survey to understand community attitudes and perceptions.

The study will help inform the future management of the system and help in analysis of future challenges and opportunities.

“The survey will give the community an opportunity to express its hope for the future of the wetlands and to raise any concerns,” Ms Purushothaman said.

“Many of the people I’ve spoken to already know and love the wetlands very well and are very happy this project is taking place.”

Ms Purushothaman said the dynamic bird life was a key feature of the wetlands, which drew many visitors to the area. However, her conversations had illustrated the importance of finding a balance between encouraging visitors and providing access to the wetlands without disrupting the birds and their habitat.

The study will complement the consultation process being undertaken through the Revitalising Geographe Waterways initiative, by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and Geocatch under the Vasse Taskforce.

Ms Purushothaman is also consulting with representatives from the key organisations managing the wetlands, including DWER, South West Catchments Council, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and the City of Busselton.

Members of the public have until Tuesday 29 August to complete the survey, which can be accessed here. For more information about the project, contact Shivani at G.Purushothaman@murdoch.edu.au.

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