WTT Blog

All about the (sea) trout

Posted on June 14, 2018

All about the (sea) trout

Hopefully a few sea trout have found a bit of water (not round here mind) and are starting to return to our rivers at the moment. Fitting then to hand over the blog to Angus Lothian, a PhD student at Durham University (see his first blog here) to reflect on a new network for sea trout research.

Salmo trutta is a truly fascinating ‘species’, with such varying life history strategies and showing large phenotypic plasticity, exemplified by their key characteristic of partial-migration.  It is not yet fully known what drives partial-migration, with a component of a population of trout smolting and emigrating from rivers to sea, and the rest remaining river-resident.  Although the trout has often played second fiddle to Atlantic salmon, recent surges in the interest of trout ecology and biology, and in particular sea trout, has led to a rise in the number of scientists and PhD students researching this field.

MSc Research with WTT

Posted on May 23, 2018

MSc Research with WTT

I’ve just had the pleasure of hosting two MSc students from Queen Mary University of London (co-supervised with Dr Chris Eizaguirre), partly for the WTT Annual Get Together, and partly to undertake some fieldwork specifically for Charlotte Pike’s project. I alluded to their research projects in a former post and now I have the pleasure of handing over to them to update you.

Charlotte’s project focuses on the use of stable isotopes to determine the success of river restoration. I will be analysing samples from pre and post intervention works against an unimpacted control site on the same river to see how the restoration has affected the ‘architecture’ of the food web. Hopefully it should be more like the control! The intervention works have been carried out by the Ribble Rivers Trust at two locations; Bashall Brook and Towneley Hall. At Bashall Brook, a riparian zone has been created where banks of the river were previously bare; essentially livestock exclusion fencing now removes the impacts of grazing and poaching. This strip of vegetation acts as a buffer to reduce nutrient run-off from farmland, keeps the ground more stable and resilient to flood damage to reduce soil erosion, and provides necessary refuge for wildlife. At Towneley Hall, a partial weir removal and a rock pass re-instates the connectivity of the River Calder allowing fish to move between formerly fragmented habitats. These interventions have been conducted to improve the quality of the habitat at these two sites, and it’s my job to find out what changes have occurred as a result! 

Reflecting on NoWPaS 2018

Posted on March 27, 2018

Reflecting on NoWPaS 2018

Quite a few of our guest bloggers recently have been at the same conference. Unfortunately, I could only follow the key scientific revelations via Twitter from afar but I have been alerted to some work of which I was previously unaware, so I am hoping to establish contact with those people and perhaps they will contribute a blog or two in the near future. Here, Jess Marsh (she of the water crowfoot and salmonid community research) has kindly offered to tell us briefly about NoWPas.

A week after the 14th annual NoWPaS workshop was wrapped up in spectacular style with a traditional Finnish nuotio, or campfire, we are reflecting on an inspiring week of exciting salmonid research, new experiences and friendships.

NoWPaS 2018 participants at Oulanka Research Station, Finland. Photo taken by Angus Lothian

Spot the difference(s)

Posted on March 10, 2018

Spot the difference(s)

Gather some fine fishy folk into a room and get them talking (as if you could stop ‘em) about brown trout. How long do you reckon it would be before the topic of colour or more likely spotting pattern would creep in? Let’s face it, we love our spotties! It’s just such an integral part of their beauty and wonderful diversity.

So, for no other reason than the sheer beauty of ‘em, I’m going to ask you good supporters of WTT to snap a few images of wild brown trout spots when you’re out this season but specifically trying to focus on one area – square on and below the dorsal fin. In fact, just like the images scattered around this page, trying to avoid any large patches of glare / reflection / contrast. These images were lifted from 'whole' fish shots, and hence aren't the best quality. I'm hoping you can provide some close ups of the fish flank.

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

Posted on February 22, 2018

WTT 'twixt research & conservation

The observant amongst you may have noticed and even (hopefully) read the blog I posted from MSc students at Queen Mary University of London after they had completed an electrofishing survey with me as part of a training exercise. Each year, at the same time, a cohort of Freshwater & Marine Ecology students ‘(re)samples’ Woodplumpton Brook where I have been working with Wyre RT to improve the watercourse habitat and connectivity. Well, two of the most recent students were so enthused by the experience and some of the work that I do at the WTT that they have signed up to complete their MSc projects under my supervision and with Dr Chris Eizaguirre (QMUL).

Both of the projects I will outline below have actually been in existence for a while, and both use my academic expertise in stable isotopes. Stay with me! Each is in partnership with other organisations, and so the students will benefit from work experience outside of the purely academic arena, as well as from developing an extended network of contacts which may well be useful further down the line at job-hunting time!

Why Presume to Remove Weirs? (with River Dove Case Study)

Posted on February 02, 2018

Weirs and the Backwards Ways that Rivers WorkOne of my favourite sayings on river restoration is a mangled quote from a movie

"...boxing is an unnatural act. Everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step backwards...but step back too far and you ain't fighting at all".

So my mangled version starts out "Everything in rivers is backwards...". Basically, I never seem to run out of new examples of "what SEEMS to happen in a river is actually the complete opposite of what really happens".



The rest of this article looks at many of the "backwards" things about weirs and rivers - and finishes off with a real-world case-study that is playing out right now on the River Dove.

One spoiler alert is that, from an ecological point of view, it is almost always safe to assume that:

The best biological outcome for a river is the removal of some or all of an artificial weir. 
Now, I don't expect you to believe that right off the bat and then go about your day...

...and there are...

CATCH in Wincanton and News of the First Recorded Wild Brown Trout Following Their Hard Work

Posted on January 24, 2018

Blog posts are like London Buses it seems!

This one is just a very short "Congratulations" to the Folks at CATCH (Community Action to Transform the Cale Habitat) and the video put out by Wincanton Window (embedded below).



All of the folks in the partnership mentioned in the video have done HUGE amounts of work (from classroom education projects to habitat working parties and endless enthusiasm for engaging more people in their local river and much more besides).

A big disclaimer from me is that, although this project is supported by/affiliated with our Trout in the Town project - it has been Mike Blackmore who has fulfilled that role for the WTT rather than myself.

So massive well done to all involved (especially you Gary Hunt!)- it is wonderful to see all of the fish and wildlife coming back to the Cale. Of course, it is absolutely delightful to see that wild brown trout put in an appearance as well!

It seems to be all the rage for recovering urban stream projects in the "Trout in the Town" family - as this recent example from the Lyme Brook in Staffordshire also shows.

Paul

Birmingham and Coventry's Urban Waterways

Posted on January 23, 2018

It's about time for a new blog post and I thought it would be good to flag up some of the investigations that I've been doing in conjunction with Waterside Care (which, in itself, is supported by Keep Britain Tidy).

As well as initial investigations on the River Cole around the Shire Country Park and Burberry Brickworks, more recent forays to the little Westley Brook, River Sowe, Stonehouse Brook and a little stream in the Holly Wood Local Nature Reserve (between Great Barr and Queslett) have seen me criss-crossing the M6 and M69 and the surrounding areas.


What always surprises me is just how much of the Black Country/Coventry area is essentially "floating" on a vast network of underground watercourses which suddenly pop up into daylight in surprising places. Of course this puts a lot of pressure onto the biology of these streams - not only from the physical "encasing" of their channels in brick and concrete (both above and below ground).

It is the ever-present threat of intermittent and chronic pollution that arrives in these modified watercourses that is a really...

Communities created by crowfoot?

Posted on January 22, 2018

Communities created by crowfoot?

There are few more captivating sights than a river reach swathed in water crowfoot flowers, for what delights might be hidden beneath?  William Barnes (1801–1886) was certainly inspired:

O small-feac’d flow’r that now dost bloom,To stud wi’ white the shallow Frome,An’ leäve the clote to spread his flow’rOn darksome pools o’ stwoneless Stour,When sof’ly-rizèn airs do coolThe water in the sheenèn pool,Thy beds o’ snow white buds do gleamSo feäir upon the sky-blue stream,As whitest clouds, a-hangèn highAvore the blueness of the sky

This humble member of the buttercup family is considered by ecologists as an autogenic engineer: it can change the surrounding environment via its own physical structure. While many people have tried to study where and why water crowfoot grows, especially in relation to nutrients, few have considered how the plant influences the assemblages of organisms around it. Cue Jessica Marsh’s PhD study….

Should I stay or should I go?

Posted on January 05, 2018

Should I stay or should I go?

'Can I migrate?' is a question that we at WTT often raise on behalf of fish. In most instances, this question is associated with two physical factors. One is whether there is sufficient water in the river for fish to move through; a problem exacerbated in the southern parts of the UK by abstraction pressures. The other is whether there are any barriers or obstacles to free fish passage - and there are usually plenty! But 'Should I migrate or not?'  is an interesting one that does not get asked very often. Luckily I know someone who does ask such questions! With great pleasure, I hand over to Kim Birnie-Gauvin from the National Institute for Aquatic Resources at the Technical University of Denmark who is conducting her PhD research within the AMBER project.

Physiology & partial migration: from the free radical theory of ageing to residancy and migration in brown trout....

Woodplumpton Brook Restoration: Baffle-ing Results!

Posted on December 18, 2017

Woodplumpton Brook Restoration: Baffle-ing Results!

With my ‘Research’ & Conservation Officer cap on, I can straddle the often hefty divide between academia and NGO/grass roots conservation groups and do a little bit to pull them together. Queen Mary University of London buy out some of my time and expertise from WTT to give their aquatic ecology MSc students practical training and experience in the field. As a part of a week-long fieldcourse based in the Lake District, I have forged a link between them and Wyre Rivers Trust but I’ll let some of the excellent members of this year’s cohort tell you about it, below. Thanks to Dr Christophe Eizaguirre and the rest of the students who worked efficiently on the day to provide the data, and of course, to Tom Myerscough from Wyre RT for sorting out the relevant permissions.

The Wyre is one of the key rivers of Lancashire, with its catchment covering much of the North of the county. It has historically been known as one of the best sea-trout fisheries in England. However, in the post-war 20th Century, like most rivers it suffered from intensified agriculture, urbanisation and new engineering methods, and these changes have cumulatively affected fish communities.

Where in the sea are sea trout?

Posted on December 11, 2017

Where in the sea are sea trout?

As anglers, we often struggle to find fish in a stream, river or lake / loch, and we're generally seeking the bigger fish! Keeping track of the vulnerable juvenile life-stages is even more tricky, and then imagine translocating that problem to the sea.... OK, so with advances in acoustic telemetry, the boffins have a few tricks up their sleeves and are making some headway but the logistics of tracking in such a potentially vast environment are nonetheless challenging. Isabel Moore from the Scottish Centre for Ecology & The Natural Enviornment has risen to that challenge during her PhD and outlines one aspect below.

The brown trout is a remarkably diverse species; it can utilise multiple life-history strategies, ranging from freshwater residency through to migration into marine environments for a period of time before returning to freshwater to reproduce (i.e. anadromous sea trout). Unfortunately, this iconic species has been faced with significant population declines in recent decades across the UK and other parts of the world. A significant portion of the anadromous population decline is thought to occur in marine environments. However, the sheer areal extent of habitats utilised by sea trout makes the monitoring of their movements very difficult, leaving many unanswered questions about the types of challenges that sea trout face and how those challenges might affect the their survival rates. Both environmental (i.e. predation, climate change, etc.) and anthropogenic influences (i.e. overfishing, aquaculture, etc.) have been identified as potential sources of increased mortality, but further research is required to determine the effect of each on wild sea trout.

Resident brown trout (left) and anadromous sea trout with acoustic tag on the rule below (right)

Capturing Catchment Connectivity Issues

Posted on November 13, 2017

Capturing Catchment Connectivity Issues

Here at WTT, we're (no pun intended!) all for reconnecting fragmented systems: see recent news items from Tim Jacklin's work on letting the Dove flow, applications of Mike Blackmore's patented #weirbegone, or some of my recent work with Aire Rivers Trust as just a few examples. Europe wide, indeed globally, there is growing recognition of such issues but do we know even the true extent of the problem? Hence, it's great to hear from Siobhán Atkinson regarding her current PhD research.

River connectivity is vital for sustaining healthy freshwater ecosystems. It is important for maintaining resident as well as migratory fish populations, natural sediment movement, and habitat for macroinvertebrate communities and other aquatic organisms. Despite this, few rivers remain uninterrupted across Europe.

Porter Brook Deculverting on Brazilian TV

Posted on October 30, 2017

The deculverting and stream habitat improvement project was picked up by the European news team for Brazilian (!) channel Sistema Brasileiro Televisão or "SBT". Their piece looked at what had been done in Sheffield by the partnership project between Sheffield City Council, EA and Wild Trout Trust to see what could be applied in Brazilian cities and their watercourses.

The Tagline was "What can Sao Paolo Learn from Sheffield? How Industrial Sheffield Uncovered its Rivers" and went out to their reported audience of around 20-million viewers.

If you fancy brushing up on your Portuguese, you can check out the report here:


The embedded news item can be viewed on the SBT site by Clicking Here.

Paul