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Citizen scientists end a dozen dusty years

After 12 years and more than $100,000 of in-kind contribution, a pair of citizen scientists is being recognised for their part in the national Community DustWatch program.

Greg and Donna Hull have been part of the program since 2007, and have recently sold their property, ‘Genoe’, at Kyalite, in southern NSW, ending their association with the scheme. The farm’s new owners will now continue their dozen years of work.

Stephan Heidenreich, senior scientist from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), paid tribute to the couple’s service.

“Greg and Donna have provided invaluable volunteer service to the NSW DustWatch program,” he said.

“They maintained the dust monitoring instrument on their property every month for over 10 years, and provided local insight into the cause of dust in the area.”

Coordinated by the DPIE, DustWatch is a national initiative to monitor dust storms across Australia. It began in 2002 and is one of Australia’s longest-running citizen-science programs.

The program involves about 40 ‘nodes’ around the country that monitor dust concentrations. Community volunteers like Greg and Donna Hull record data and observations and send them to DPIE.

The analysed data is then sent on to the community, researchers and government agencies such as the NSW Environment Protection Authority, public health agencies, the Bureau of Meteorology and Local Land Services.

Senior Land Services Officer with Murray Local Land Services, Adrian Smith, said understanding dust storms was key to effective land management.

“Community DustWatch helps us understand the causes and costs of dust storms,” he said.

“This has led natural-resource agencies to invest more in groundcover projects across Australia and landholders to change how they manage their land.”

Mr Smith said DustWatch was now the leading source of general and scientific information about wind erosion, atmospheric dust and smoke levels, and groundcover levels across Australia.

“Thanks to volunteers like Greg and Donna, whose in-kind contribution has been estimated at more than $100,000, this program is a real success story,” he said.

Murray and Western Local Land Services (and the former Catchment Management Authorities) have been involved in the project since the mid-2000s.

Media contact: Matt Lane, Communications, 02 6051 2252, mob 0427 459 755