Riverfly monitoring with a TWIST!

Thanks to the enthusiasm of local volunteers, the urban areas of Somerset’s Axe and Sheppey river catchments now have 16 newly-trained riverfly monitors to look after them, as part of our Trout in the Town TWIST (Transforming Waterways in Somerset’s Towns) project.

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week, after completing part of the national Riverfly Partnerships training in a new online module, the volunteers met on the banks of the Keward Brook in Wells to complete their practical training under the watchful eye of trainer Jess Grant from Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART).

Riverfly monitoring is a brilliant citizen science project for assessing the health of your local river, because it’s based on regularly counting the pollution-sensitive aquatic insects that live there 24−7−365, and then reporting any problems to the Environment Agency (EA).

In order for the EA to take riverfly monitoring data seriously, it’s necessary for volunteers to be trained and certified in some standard procedures. These include taking a standardised 3‑minute kick sample in the river at an agreed site, and identifying some of the groups of invertebrates in the sample. Here’s a short video (presented by WTT’s good friend Stuart Crofts) which shows how the process works:

After their training, TWIST’s new team of riverfly monitors are now choosing and registering their monthly kick-sampling sites with BART (our local riverfly hub) and the EA – and we’ll all soon have much more informed knowledge about the ongoing health of the Axe, Cheddar Yeo, Sheppey and Keward Brook. We may also to be able to track down sources of pollution much more quickly when they happen! 

TWIST RFM training 270721 comp
TWIST RFM training 280721 comp
TWIST RFM training 2 270721 comp

If possible, we’re hoping to run another training day later this year for anyone who couldn’t make the sessions last week, or hadn’t heard about this project until now. 

If you’d like to join the TWIST project and help us start monitoring even more sites on Somerset’s urban rivers, please email Theo Pike at tpike@​wildtrout.​org

The TWIST pilot project has been funded by the Environment Agency and the Somerset Catchment Partnership. We’re also very grateful to Mendip District Council for giving us permission to use this stretch of the Keward Brook and the adjacent river bank for training and ongoing monitoring.