'Citizen scientists' trained to help monitor health of River Wensum

Workshop tutor Ian Hawkins with Chris High in the River Wensum, during a training session on invertebrate identification

Workshop tutor Ian Hawkins with Chris High in the River Wensum, during a training session on invertebrate identification - Credit: Dennis Willis

Seven "citizen scientists" were trained in riverfly monitoring as part of a bid to engage the public in the conservation of the River Wensum.

The Wensum Catchment Partnership hosted the training day on the protected chalk river at Swanton Morley, near Dereham.

Trainees including anglers and conservationists gained accreditations in the safe methods of collecting freshwater invertebrates from the bed of a watercourse as part of the Riverfly Partnership project.

The team can now help monitor riverflies and other invertebrates which are regarded as key indicators of the health of rivers.

Dennis Willis, Riverflies coordinator for the River Wensum, said: "The project’s aims are to identify invertebrates from eight different groups and from which provides a guide to the health of the watercourse.

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"These individuals can now, in conjunction with Riverflies, establish locations throughout Norfolk and monitor the health of any watercourse.

The workshop was the initial phase of establishing "citizen science" monitoring across the Wensum catchment, with a more detailed study on its headwaters set to start shortly.

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Jessie Leach, project officer for Norfolk Rivers Trust, said the training would enable the public to help conservationists to better understand the Wensum, and ultimately make it a healthier river catchment.

“Citizen science is being recognised as an increasingly vital source of information and support for understanding and restoring the health of our river catchments," she said.

"For the River Wensum, and wider nationally, training and working with our communities is a key step to monitoring and understanding where and how our river health is declining.

"This riverfly training is the first part of a wider initiative in the Wensum to engage citizens to work alongside organisations to better monitor and restore the full catchment of our River Wensum.”

The initiative was supported by the Broadland Catchment Partnership and the EU project Water Co-Governance, and in conjunction with the Wensum Working Group team of the Broads Angling Services Group.

Mr Willis thanked Ian Hawkins, who delivered the workshop, and the Norfolk Flyfishers Club, whose members provided the location, facilities and refreshments alongside the river Wensum.

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