To celebrate World Water Monitoring Day, volunteer Ron Wilder shares his experience working on the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative.
“I’ve been involved with the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative [RMI] for 3 years now; I was attracted to the project from both my South Downs Volunteer Ranger conservation work with water voles and my passion for fly-fishing. So dressing up in rubber waders and getting waste deep into a river was already something that I was used to! However, when I started I didn’t think I would end up discovering such a beautiful world of miniature creatures and enjoy following their living habits with such enthusiasm.
I monitor a stretch of the River Meon at Holy Well, close to a busy timber yard, so it is important to monitor the biological health of the river and importantly to be seen to be doing so – a form of deterrence. Impressively, my experience has demonstrated that the river is in excellent health with a vast array of tiny invertebrate life. Every sample I collect is teeming with life and it does cause me no small wonder that in just 3 minutes of sampling I can get literally several thousand tiny creatures – all swimming about in great health.
Like all my fellow RMI volunteers I started my work by attending a one-day training seminar, which included lectures and practical work on the river bank collecting and identifying river life. In carrying out our surveys we do not seek to identify every bit of river life we discover – just the 8 indicator species that provide the broad indicators of the health of the river’s biodiversity. With a little practice it soon becomes easy to spot these 8 species and we don’t even have to count every one, just estimate the total on a logarithmic scale – a good thing because I invariably estimate over a 1000 tiny specimens of our fresh water shrimp, Gammarus in the River Meon!
An additional benefit of doing my river fly monitoring is I get unprecedented access onto one of the most beautiful stretches of the Meon, you don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy the beautiful scenery and serenity of being by a lively, babbling river and it is especially interesting being able to follow its moods through the seasons, as the surveys are conducted monthly. I feel it is a tremendous privilege to be able to contribute to monitoring our landscape in this way, if the sound of this interests you – why not give it a go?”