Concerned about the state of the UK’s waterways? Would you like to do your part to improve them? As part of new scientist Save Britain’s Rivers, rounding up the most exciting citizen science projects that share our ambitions to protect and restore these vital waters. This is how you can help.
RiverFly is a network of scientists, conservationists, and organizations that helps people monitor the number of invertebrates in their local rivers. Volunteers are trained to collect water samples from rivers and count the different types of insects they find. Each group is overseen by a project leader and the data is used by the UK Environment Agency to better understand how invertebrates are faring in rivers across the UK. About 300 volunteers monitor insects across the country in this way every month, he says. Trine Bregstein in Riverfly.
You can participate by going to the Riverfly website to find out when your local river foundation will hold its next one-day Riverfly training session, which will usually be free. “You don’t have to be an entomologist, an ecologist, or have a Ph.D. to do this,” Bregstein says. “Anyone can do it.”
reach out hands
Similar to RiverFly, the Modular physical study of rivers (MoRPh) is a rigorous monitoring program that requires a one-day training session for members of the public to participate. But unlike RiverFly, the project focuses on monitoring the river’s physical habitat, he says. Angela Gurnell in MoRPh.
“You can’t understand the ecological data of rivers if you don’t understand the physical habitat,” says Gurnell. “That’s why we started this survey.”
The project has been fully operational for four years and aims to get citizen scientists to monitor the characteristics of their local rivers, Gurnell says. This can include analysis of the pattern of water flow and the types of vegetation found on the banks of rivers, she says.
People can take part in surveys across the UK, says Gurnell. Visit the MoRPh website to find the next available training session near you.
Take to the Thames
The charity thames21 has been spearheading citizen science projects along the River Thames for several years. For example, the team surveyed dragonfly numbers on Crane Park Island in Twickenham, London, in May. The island is a local nature reserve made up of ponds, reedbeds and forests.
Thames21 is currently organizing a litter survey at Limekiln Dock in East London to June 28th. Participants will classify the garbage they find into various types, such as that derived from sewage, to identify the most important problems in the Thames.
This event follows the charity PlasticBlitz initiative earlier this month, in which he asked groups to help clean plastic from the banks of their local rivers in London. Last year, 500 volunteers participated in the same initiative and collected 14,000 plastic items. “The worst offenders were the wet wipes,” he says Liz Gyekye in Thames21.
All upcoming events are listing on group website. Gyekye says that focusing on your local environment is a good way to make a positive impact. “Climate change can sometimes seem like too big a problem to deal with,” she says. “But helping to clean up and protect your local river can produce visible results.”
He DRYRivers app aims to help researchers document and study rivers around the world that are drying up due to climate change. According to the team behind it, 50 percent of the world’s network of rivers has drying channels.
Studies suggest that climate change could have a major impact on fish that depend on river networks connected to free-flowing water. The app is easy to use and asks people to take pictures of their local river and report whether or not the water is flowing.
clean swimming campaign
Despite people across the country enjoying a dip in their local river, the UK government has officially granted bathing status to only three stretches of river in England. This means that only these rivers are regularly monitored for E.coli and levels of intestinal enterococci during the summer by the UK Environment Agency. High levels of these bacteria in water have been linked to diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
In recent years, however, several campaigns have been launched in an effort to gain bathing status for more rivers. While citizen science is not required for this, many of the successful toilet condition campaigns have taken water samples to highlight the importance of water quality being monitored regularly. You can communicate with Surfers Against Sewagea charity that supports many of these projects, to discover your local campaign group and get involved.