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Presentation series
Splashing around in our backyard - catchment knowledge and research reactions to catastrophic flooding of the Richmond River, NSW, Australia in 2022

The Richmond River has the poorest water quality rating of coastal rivers in New South Wales, Australia. It suffers from a historical misunderstanding of the connections between land use and water quality. In the 1800's the timber industry reduced what is known as the "Big Scrub Rainforest" to just 1% of its original size, leading to massive erosion and sedimentation issues. Find the zoom link to this event here.

The project

The widescale draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes led to the exposure of Acid Sulfate Soils (ASS) resulting in acidification of floodplain river waters.  The removal of water-tolerant wetland vegetation has caused widespread blackwater (low dissolved oxygen) events, particularly during rainfall and flooding.   Five local government areas manage the catchment area, which disconnects upstream and downstream perceptions and management activities.  The water quality in much of the river is not suitable for swimming which affects community perceptions of the river, how they engage with it and value it. The catastrophic floods in 2022 have shone a light on the exploration of how we live with a dynamic and highly modified river in our landscape.  In this presentation series we will touch on some of the sub-themes based around community and indigenous values, community aspirations for river health, water bugs and citizen science, tracing historical land use and governance, water quality and riparian restoration.


The team

Prof. Amanda Reichelt-Brushett 
Amanda is focused on enhancing our understanding of the sources, fate, and consequences of contaminants in our environment and includes several subthemes: ecotoxicology, risk assessment based on multiple lines of evidence, sediment and water quality assessment and management, sustainable practice, and rehabilitation and restoration. The general theme of her research also incorporates catchment management and interactions between the land and sea in the context of pollution inputs and habitat management and communities. Amanda has worked with communities in the Asia-Pacific region to help understand various local pollution issues and improve environmental outcomes. Locally, she is motivated to use her expertise to work within the community to improve the health of the Richmond River through her research and leadership in the Richmond RiverKeeper organisation.

Further interest includes working in transdisciplinary collaborations that connect art and science. Her research and collaborations in this area explore research methodologies of both discipline areas to evolve new ways of thinking that can contribute to solving complex environmental problems we face.

Brendan Cox 
Brendan is finalising his PhD at Southern Cross University on the temperature tolerance of freshwater macroinvertebrates. He runs a citizen science program training community groups to assess water quality in the freshwater reaches of the Richmond River and investigate macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity. Brendan now works for the New South Wales State Government focussing on river health of NSW river systems.

Associate Prof. Adele Wessell 
Adele is an Associate Professor in History with the Faculty of Business, Law and Arts at Southern Cross University and works in the field of environmental history. Adele is Merewether Fellow 2024 with the State Library of NSW, writing a history of the Richmond River. She is currently working on a project that evolved from the challenges associated with the 2022 flooding across the catchment and focussed on archiving resources about the Richmond River.

Emily Horton 
Emily is an Honours student focussed on understanding how the community values the Richmond River and aspirations it future condition. Emily holds a Bachelor of Marine Science and Management from Southern Cross University.

And possible Dr. Endang Jamal (TBC) 
Endang spent 4 years in Australia at Southern Cross University researching contaminants in the Richmond River estuary. She investigated trace metals and pesticides using a multiple lines of evidence approach. She also investigated aspects of oyster health.  Endang is now back in Indonesia as a senior lecturer at the University of Pattimura, Ambon.


River Cities Network presentation series

The River Cities Network presentation series is an online platform for teams in the River Cities Network (RCN) to introduce their river-city case study projects to other members of the network and to an external audience. Teams have approximately 30 minutes to present their projects, after which there will be approximately 30 minutes for discussion. RCN teams that are interested to present can contact the RCN coordinators to sign up for a presentation slot.


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