This autumn we took SmartRivers to the beautiful county of Kent.
Thanks to the generosity of Stour Fishery Association we were able to start working on the Great Stour, an interesting river that begins away from Kent’s chalk downs, yet enjoys the full character of a chalk stream due to significant influxes of groundwater from chalk springs in the river valley.
We successfully collected our professional ‘benchmark’ samples at five sites. Benchmarking is the first step for any new hub. As well as providing the basis of the training, it also provides a scientifically robust reference point. We will be returning in spring to finish the benchmarking. Some invertebrate species are only found in certain seasons, so sampling in both autumn and spring gives us good coverage.
Once the benchmarks were collected we moved on teaching the SFA volunteers how to perform a 3 minute kick-sweep sample to a near professional standard. This included how to identify the available habitats and divvy up your 3 minutes sampling time accordingly. Varying sizes of bed substrate, plants at the river margins and different types of in-river weed all host their own unique assemblages of invertebrates. For a representative, useful sample it is key to move around and capture all these habitats. The volunteers did a brilliant job getting to grips with the technique.
For the second part of the day, we said goodbye to the picturesque Godmersham Park and headed to the classroom. Using samples collected from the morning, the volunteers were trained to properly wash their samples using various sieves and begin the challenging process of picking out animals. Invertebrates come in many different forms and most are tiny in size, so this is no small undertaking! Even an expert can spend a whole day simply picking out invertebrates. The beauty of the SmartRivers process is that if you start to go ‘tray blind’ the animals are preserved in alcohol, so you can take as long as you need!
A huge thank you to our trainers, Richard Osmond and Matt Owen-Farmer and of course to the Stour Fishery Association for enrolling into SmartRivers. We look forward to visiting you again in spring for a lesson in identifying your expected species!
If your club or group is interested in being part of SmartRivers drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers, but if you are struggling to find additional volunteers your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help! No previous experience is required, but Riverfly Partnership training is handy to have.
Reporting with a purpose
S&TC is a national organisation and we use evidence from local case studies to help instigate policy changes that will benefit UK wild fish populations. But, this is just part of the value - we are making all our Riverfly Census findings available so they can be used to inform local management and drive action.
Each individual river report is based on three years of surveying data. Where possible, we have linked up our findings with other existing literature and data. Using the available information we suggest where local fishing and/or conservation groups can focus their management efforts to achieve the best health outcomes for each of the 12 original Census rivers.
Some of our local reports can be found on the slider below. Alternatively, visit the Riverfly Census page and scroll down to the map.