17 January 2022

ANU student making a splash with Murrumbidgee River study

| Sally Hopman
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Ana Londono Botero and Darren Roso at Casuarina Sands

Ana Londono Botero (right) with ACT Parks and Conservation ranger Darren Roso (left) at Casuarina Sands. They have posted QR codes at some popular sites encouraging people to take part in a survey. Photo: Supplied.

When environmental science student Ana Londono Botero was researching topics for her Master’s degree she wanted more than just a subject that would get her across the academic line.

The Colombian native came to Canberra four years ago, and says she wanted to work on a project that would have long-term benefits for the city she had fallen in love with.

“I wanted to do something that would be very Canberran,” she says. “There’s something about Canberra that makes me feel good so I wanted to do something that would benefit Canberra.”

After speaking to her supervisors at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health Society at the Australian National University, Ana came up with a proposal to survey users of the Murrumbidgee River corridor for her Master’s in Environmental Science.

The aim of her study is to look at how the ACT community values the use of natural swimming sites along the Murrumbidgee River: what works for people, what doesn’t, and how the area can best be maintained and valued to ensure it remains just as popular and safe for future generations of Canberrans and visitors.

The study looks at health and social benefits of using the sites, with the aim of informing government on the best way to manage natural waterways now and into the future.

READ ALSO ‘Pink Lake’: the secrets of Canberra’s hidden natural phenomenon

Ana says of particular interest is the impact such sites have on people’s wellbeing.

“I’ve always had an interest in environmental health issues, and when my supervisors talked about looking at the social part of the river – why people go where they go, why they prefer some sites over other ones, whether they like natural features over man-made ones – I knew it was the right thing to do,” she says.

To find answers to some of these questions, which in turn will provide government with valuable information about the state of the river, Ana is asking users of the Murrumbidgee to fill out her survey.

“I get very excited about this because I didn’t just want to do a literature review for my Master’s,” she says. “I wanted to do something that was practical and that would be helpful for Canberra and future generations of the people here.

“I had never actually been to some of these sites on the Murrumbidgee before I started working on his survey, but I’d heard a lot about many of them.”

Murrumbidgee River

Murrumbidgee River usage is the subject of a survey by ANU student Ana Londono Botero. Photo: Ana Londono Botero.

Since Ana started the survey in August 2021, she has visited all the sites, sometimes changing her favourite spot every time she visited a new one.

Her first favourite was Casuarina Sands, but that was until she visited Uriarra East and Pine Island.

The initial plan was to cover 10 sites, but since the surveys have started coming back, Ana is discovering more.

“In the survey, some people are mentioning different sites – lesser known ones,” she says. “We hope to cover all of them because every one is so different.”

The main sites being looked at include Casuarina Sands, Uriarra Crossing, Kambah Pool, Point Hut Crossing, Pine Island and south towards Tharwa Bridge.

Ana is currently working out in the field with ACT Parks and Conservation rangers putting up signs with QR codes so people can access the survey onsite.

“I was out there today with one of the rangers and as we were leaving, I saw a man scanning the QR code on one of the signs we’d just put up,” she says. “It was wonderful to see.”

The survey, which has 26 questions, takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Ana is keen for as many people as possible to take part.

If you’re interested in doing the survey, you can find it here.

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I really wanted to fill out this survey as I love the Murrumbidgee and spend a lot of time there but the survey has a few problems. Some of the questions are ambiguous and unclear but I soldiered on until about the 75% mark when it stopped altogether, would not let me click on ‘Next’ button, kept asking me to “Please answer the question” when I already had. So sad, and what a waste of my time!

I agree. I filled it in but it wasn’t a nice clean survey.

I applaud the research, but the quality of the survey was disappointing, certainly sub-standard for a Master’s degree. I do wonder whether Ana actually attempted to answer the survey herself.

It did run successfully for me, but there was not an option to go back to a previous question. I reconsidered one of the exercise questions (I’m not convinced with the examples for the breakdowns of exercise types) and couldn’t go back. I ended up abandoning that attempt on the survey and started it again from a different browser. I suspect not being able to go back is controlled by the survey software, but if so, perhaps that is not good software to use.

Some of the questions seemed poorly phrased or thought out.

Every option for Question 18 has “:Right” appended to it. I see this in two different browsers (Firefox and Edge). This is very obvious and is what makes me wonder whether Ana or her associates actually attempted to actually do the survey.

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