Beach Watch – community based coastal monitoring on the northern Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria

Mr Nick Wynn1,3, Ms Leia Howes2, Ms  Jane Shearer1,4

1Bellarine Bayside Foreshore Committee Of Management, Portarlington, Australia, 2Great Ocean Road Coast Committee of Management, Torquay, Australia, 3Central Coastal Board, Melbourne, Australia, 4Bellarine Catchment Network, Mannerim, Australia


Bellarine Bayside is a Victorian government appointed committee of management that manages 17 kms of coastal reserves along the northern Bellarine Peninsula on the western coastline of Port Phillip Bay. In order to obtain quality data on sediment movement along the shoreline across temporal and spatial scales, Bellarine Bayside has recently implemented a citizen-science community coastal monitoring program titled Beach Watch. The program incorporates many social and community objectives.

Dedicated Beach Watch community volunteers regularly measure beach profiles at 20 strategically selected monitoring locations. To ensure the data is scientifically rigorous, quality control measures have been incorporated into the survey methodology and volunteers are provided with a step-by-step manual; maintained monitoring kits; regular training; and assistance every step of the way.

At each monitoring location a marker post has been installed to provide the AHD benchmark height. When measuring profiles, volunteers use an optical dumpy level and survey staff to measure elevations along a set transect which extends from the beach back shore to the inter-tidal zone. Height measurements and beach substrate data is recorded at no greater than 2 metre intervals along the transect. Raw data is submitted to staff who check and process the data using a pre-designed Microsoft Excel template, which generates the profile.

Next steps for Beach Watch is to investigate the development of a simple data base to store and help analyse the information and to incorporate other monitoring techniques such as photo-point monitoring and drones.


Nick has a Bachelor of Science from James Cook University majoring in marine biology. He worked in various roles at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for 12 years before moving to Victoria to work with the then Department of Environment and Primary Industries. Nick now works with the Bellarine Bayside Foreshore Committee of Management on the northern Bellarine Peninsula. Throughout his career Nick has worked in a range of management roles including scientific research, marine and coastal planning, operations, policy development, environmental impact assessment, community and stakeholder engagement, and land use planning.

Extending capacity to monitor marine biodiversity without sacrificing detail: targeted participation citizen science

Dr Rick Stuart-smith1,2, Professor Graham Edgar1,2

1Reef Life Survey, Hobart, Australia, 2IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


The traditional spectrum for monitoring of biodiversity has ranged from professional scientific teams, collecting detailed data at relatively small spatial and temporal scales, to high participation citizen science, collecting data over large scales but with lower levels of detail. The Reef Life Survey (RLS) program provides an important example of how targeted participation citizen science and high levels of training can fill the critical gap in our ability to sustain biodiversity monitoring in the world’s shallow seas. RLS allows greatly extended coverage of monitoring with increased cost-effectiveness, and without sacrificing the level of detail in the data collected. RLS data have in turn supported the science needed to develop and test key biodiversity indicators relating to pressures such as fisheries exploitation, climate change and pollution, relevant to Australia’s shallow marine environment. This presentation will show how local partnerships and monitoring efforts, that engage and train local community members, have been scaled up to allow tracking of these standardised biodiversity indicators around the continent. It will provide details of how scientific, public knowledge and biodiversity management have been improved through the voluntary work of community SCUBA divers, and what opportunities exist in the ongoing development of RLS.


Rick is a marine biologist and a co-founder of the Reef Life Survey program (RLS). Through his work as a research fellow at the University of Tasmania and RLS, Rick has dived and undertaken biodiversity surveys of reefs all around the world and has trained over 200 divers to undertake RLS surveys.

he has written a field guide on tropical fishes and created the Reef Species of the world online database, which provides a mechanism for the public to engage with the data and images  from the RLS program. His research is aimed at improving management of marine biodiversity.

Estuary watchers breaking new ground, a collaboration between Universities and citizen scientists

Miss Rose Herben1, Miss Allyson  O’Brien2, Miss Jane Findlay3, Miss Ayali Dissanayake Mudiyanselage3, Miss  Athulya Wickramasingha3, Miss Melissa Bigot3

1Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, Colac, Australia, 2University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 3Deakin University, Waun Ponds


EstuaryWatch is a successful citizen science program active in Victoria.  The program has over 100 dedicated volunteers across the state monitoring estuary mouth condition and physical/chemical parameters that are indicators of estuary health.  Up until now EstuaryWatch monitors have had no formal way of collecting data on flora or fauna found in estuaries.  In 2017 EstuaryWatch collaborated with students from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University to develop monitoring protocols for monitoring the concentration of  Chlorophyll a in estuaries.  In the same year EstuaryWatch collaborated with Allyson O’Brien, Research Fellow from the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne to develop protocols for monitoring eDNA in estuaries.  Both projects involved research staff and students attending a project briefing with EstuaryWatch coordinators, attending an EstuaryWatch monitoring session with an active group of volunteers, conducting a literature review of the parameter being monitored, extensive monitoring trials, developing monitoring protocols and presenting them to EstuaryWatch coordinators and volunteers.  Both collaborative projects were a great example of how citizen scientists and universities can develop new monitoring techniques together by drawing on each others knowledge and expertise.


Rose Herben is the State EstuaryWatch Coordinator at the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority in Victoria.  Rose started as an EstuaryWatch volunteer on the Anglesea River and has now been in the coordinator role for six years, supporting volunteer groups in the Corangamite region and EstuaryWatch coordinators across the state.

Optimising dune restoration through the power of citizen science

Mr James Gullison1, Ms Maggie Muurmans1

1Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, Southport, Australia


European settlement over the last 100 years has decreased the number of natural dune sites along the city of the Gold Coast’s coastline. During the same period the city has experienced a high volume of intense storm events which has exposed the beaches to high erosion risk. The losses of beach front combined with the impacts of urban development have demonstrated a need for coastal management techniques to reduce the effect on coastal dunes. The Griffith Centre for Coastal Management runs the Coastal Community Engagement Program. It consists of BeachCare and DuneWatch with the aim to reduce the loss of sand along beaches through dune restoration with native species planting, increase biodiversity amongst flora and fauna species, coastline asset protection and increase stakeholder engagement through education, awareness and volunteer citizen science programs.

The methods from DuneWatch include flora and fauna diversity surveys, measurement of the dune slope, impacts from anthropogenic sources and photo-point monitoring. The results demonstrated stable flora and fauna zonation and a decrease in species at some sites due to human impacts. There is a direct correlation with the amount of rubbish found at each site and the decrease in flora diversity.

This information has provided the BeachCare program with a platform for further community engagement. It has been used to assess each site individually to determine the need for specific flora diversity at each site to increase species abundance and minimise the impacts of anthropogenic influences.


My career started with volunteer work with the Cape Byron Marine Park Authority in 2014. I worled on the collation of the commercial special permits within the marine park zone.

In 2015 I was part of the field work with the University of Queensland’s Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory and participated in a study for the abundance estimate of the East Australian Humpback population.

This lead to smaller consultancy roles as a marine fauna observer for special events in Gold Coast waterways.

In 2015 I began working with the Griffth Centre for Coastal Management with CoastEd. This also lead to further volunteer work with Ocean Connect and focused on mangrove data collection within a number of sites along the Gold Coast.

The role with GCCM expanded in 2017 and I am now the project officer for the Coastal Community Engagement Program and I facilitate BeachCare (community dune regeneration program). Other roles within  GCCM also include field work for water quality monitoring.

Community conservation in the upstream catchment of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar Site

Ms Louise Duff1

1Conservation Volunteers Australia, Torrensville, Australia


Newcastle Wetland Connections was a 4-year project to improve biodiversity and water quality in the upstream catchment of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site. The project restored 14 riparian and wetland sites across 93 hectares, addressing weeds, erosion, sedimentation, pollution and habitat loss.

WetlandCare Australia and Conservation Volunteers Australia worked in partnership with land managers, Indigenous people, community groups & education institutions to ensure the project was embedded in the local community and outcomes could be sustained.

While on-ground work was the focus of the project, the team ran a Community Engagement program to build the understanding, skills and commitment needed to sustain outcomes over the long-term. Building the capacity of Indigenous Australians to manage natural resources was addressed through traineeships, employment, workshops and cultural events.

The project hosted 47 community events over the four-year period, engaging 1,966 participants. Many people made an ongoing commitment to the project, with 835 people returning to more than one activity. Fifteen Indigenous Australians were employed or sub-contracted, and 181 Indigenous people participated in cultural and training events.

Target groups engaged included land management agencies, the University, primary schools, tertiary students, neighbours, community volunteers, the Landcare network and Aboriginal Land Councils.

This presentation will cover the governance structure that was used to involve stakeholders and land managers from start to finish. It will present the program of community and Indigenous activities held, the evaluation method and results. Conservation Volunteers Australia is seeking to replicate the project model at other locations through its Revive Our Wetlands program.


Louise Duff has been working to engage communities in nature conservation since 1988. She is passionate about wetland and shorebird conservation under the framework of the Ramsar Convention. Louise is the Program Manager, Wetlands Catchments Coasts with Conservation Volunteers Australia, as well as Secretary of the Australian Wetland Network and Chair of the World Wetland Network. She is a plant nerd increasingly addicted to bird watching.

Social licence and citizen science: Potential and progress

Ms Rachel Kelly1,3, Dr Aysha  Fleming1,2, Asoc. Prof. Gretta T Pecl1,3

1Centre For Marine Socioecology, Hobart, Australia, 2CSIRO – Land and Water, Hobart, Australia, 3Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, Australia


Social licence is an emergent concept in the marine sector and has become an important theme for development in marine industry and resource use, particularly in the context of exploring communication and stakeholder engagement. At the same time, meaningful public and societal engagement with science and research is increasingly recognised as necessary to advance public knowledge about the marine environment and to promote stewardship of ocean spaces. Citizen science is a diversified phenomenon that is expanding rapidly in marine spaces and may create pathways for support between social groups and promote networks for collaborative decision making that can enhance outcomes for science and management. Our research is among the first attempts to link social licence theory with citizen science, aiming to produce actual practical outcomes that can be applied in ocean management. Here, we examine the role marine citizen science can play in promoting social licence in the marine realm. Firstly, through an exploration of European citizen science projects and their potential to enhance social licence for marine conservation. Secondly, we describe an Australian case- study highlighting whether diverse participant groups (i.e. divers, fishers) construct and exchange opinions via this platform and whether social licence is promoted or withheld through such exchange. We outline the potential role of social licence as a tool to foster positive engagement between marine user groups, and identify how citizen science may influence perceptions and promote social licence in the marine realm.


PhD student at the Centre for Marine Socioecology. Presenting research on social licence in the marine realm. that was conducted at iDiv, Germany through funding from the Green Talent Awards for Young Potentials in Sustainable Development as well as current work on social licence with the Australian citizen science programme Redmap.

Combining education, citizen science and dune restoration programs as a model for effective coastal community engagement

Ms Maggie Muurmans1

1Griffith Centre For Coastal Management, Southport, Australia


The principles of community engagement follow the process from informing the community to their empowerment to make decisions and implement change. In order to fully implement this process, the coastal community engagement program (CCEP) at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management has successfully integrated the information, consultation, involvement, collaboration and empowerment activities into one program.  CoastEd, BeachCare and DuneWatch, programs as part of CCEP, have created an integrated approach to include the Gold Coast community in the management of the sandy dunes.

The collaboration between education, dune restoration and citizen science has lead to a local community embracing rather than opposing management strategies to reduce coastal erosion. Providing structured education sessions alongside planting and research activities have ensured that participants understand the importance of the health of dunes.  On average over one thousand participants have volunteered with CCEP in 2016 and a total of 5388 participants were part of the dune restoration program since 2005.

The model creates  hands-on activities where communities learn about the importance of dunes (information), share their ideas and thoughts about their protection (consultation), assist in planting native dune species and remove invasive ones (involvement) whilst also collect imperative data on the health of the dunes through surveys which is publicly shared at national citizen science platforms (collaboration).  This activity results in the participants feeling empowered to have made a positive contribution to their environment, instilled local stewardship and created an understanding for the management strategies to protect the coastline from storm surge and erosion events.


Maggie Muurmans has been working in the community engagement space over the past 18 years in 7 different countries and 4 continents. She is passionate about creating local stewardships for the environment and building capacity within communities.

Maggie currently coordinates the coastal community engagement program as part of the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management on the Gold Coast.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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