Wildlife recording has been a popular past time in the UK for hundreds of years, with tens of thousands of people take part in citizen science projects every year.
Citizen science projects look at many different aspects of the natural environments, from the Woodland Trusts Big Bluebell Watch, RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch, and OPAL’s wide variety of natural environment surveys. This sort of research is very valuable to charities, as it provides us with information that can be used to detect trends and patterns in species populations. This can in turn tell us about other environmental factors such as pollution levels, climate change, and general habitat health or decline.
Citizen science, as the name suggests, is also a great way for members of the public to learn new skills and develop a greater understanding of the natural environment. Teaching people more about their environment helps them to get involved in conservation and increases understanding of the natural world, and how to help conserve it. Citizen science is also a great opportunity to spend some time in the great outdoors and to meet new people.
The Ribble Rivers Trust runs their own citizen science project, alongside the Riverfly Partnership. Every year we run two workshops a year to train new volunteers who then survey the rivers looking for the larvae of three key groups of riverflies- upwing mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. These riverflies aren’t just fish and bird food, they are also sensitive to pollution, and so the more riverflies there are, the less pollution there is likely to be. As the riverflies don’t tend to move around, are present throughout the year, and spend a long time as larvae they are a great reflector of river health.
In order to count the abundance of riverflies a timed kick sample is taken from the river, the riverflies are then identifies and calculated and the ‘score’ for each species is calculated. The results are then sent to the Trust who use them to monitor river health and potential pollution levels. This data is also the first point of reference when looking at which sites we should monitor further or carry out habitat improvement work on.
The Ribble Rivers Trust currently have almost 40 regular monitors, but we are always looking for more help. If this sounds like something you would like to become involves in please visit the Ribble Rivers Trust website for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.