Print Page

How healthy is the habitat?

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels


The Werribee River starts as a small river in the Wombat State Forest and flows south-east through Ballan, Werribee Gorge and Bacchus Marsh, where it meets the Lerderderg River. The River continues until its waters are held back by the Exford Weir creating the Melton Reservoir. The river becomes tidal at the Werribee Park Mansion, continuing to flow gently to Port Philip Bay. This completes a journey of approximately 110 kilometres.

Werribee Gorge is a state park located near Bacchus Marsh. The 200m deep gorge was formed about a million years ago when movements along a fault in the Earth's crust steepened the Werribee River's gradient. Since then the river has continued to deepen the gorge through underlying rock to ancient sediments deposited in a sea more than 400 million years ago. Other geological events that have since occurred include the advance and retreat of an ice sheet and the inflow of volcanic lava.

Significant flora and fauna species exist within the catchment, however many of the species are threatened by weed invasion, predation by vermin, pollution and over-grazing. Many of the fauna species that were once found in the region are now classified as endangered or extinct. The Werribee River is one of the few rivers in Melbourne to contain a population of platypus.

Land use varies along the length of the river. It flows through agricultural land including market gardens, urban areas, industrial areas, and recreational sites. In the past, the Werribee River has been used as a dumping ground for rubbish and as a source of river sand. Litter traps have been placed over some stormwater drains that flow into the river.


  • Maximum number of students for this program is 50 per day.
  • This program is conducted at the Werribee Gorge. Your bus will need to arrive at Ecolinc at 10am, and the bus will need to stay onsite to transport students to the Werribee Gorge. The program will conclude at 2.30pm from the Werribee Gorge. Buses will need to stay onsite at Werribee Gorge for the duration of the program.
  • Students will need to bring appropriate clothing according to the time of year and forecast. This includes solid footwear as well as sunscreen and hat (spring/summer), waterproof coat and hat (autumn & winter).

Key Learning Question

What evidence suggests the Werribee Gorge is able to sustain a platypus population?

Learning Intentions

In this activity students will:

  • Define habitat assessment, biological and chemical testing, ecosystem, biodiversity.
  • Determine the habitat requirements of the platypus and the location of platypus populations.
  • Conduct field work to assess river habitat and quality.
  • Evaluate ‘how healthy is the habitat’ for the platypus.


The day is outlined below:

10am-10.30am At Ecolinc - investigate the Werribee Gorge and Werribee  River features, landuse and threats, features of the platypus, habitat requirements, and historical data.
10.30am – 10.50am Travel to the Werribee Gorge
10.50am – 11.20am Walk to the Werribee Gorge from the car park
11.20am – 2.15pm Fieldwork: habitat assessment, sample macroinverberates and water quality testing (including 30 min lunch)
2.15pm – 2.30pm
Conclusion: 'How healthy is the habitat for the platypus?'

Please note: When booking buses please inform the bus company that buses must remain onsite at Werribee Gorge for the duration of the program.

Victorian Curriculum

  • Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment; matter and energy flow through these systems (VCSSU121).

Achievement Standard:

  • Students can explain that an ecosystem comprises of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic factors, and energy flows through the system.