Over the next three months, Freddy Weaver will be undertaking a placement with the Wild Trout Trust and Professor Jonny Grey in Yorkshire . Here, he tells us a little about how that came to be and how his first week went.
I am currently undertaking my PhD at Leeds University, studying drug discovery relating to Herpes viruses and a condition of my funding is completing a 3‑month placement. Many of my colleagues find placements within the biotech/pharmaceutical industries. However, as a keen angler whose home club Royal Tunbridge Wells Angling Society has worked alongside the WTT, I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity. Not only to try something new and abstract from my studies, but also to give back to the waterways of the UK that have given me so much. Coming from a background of molecular virology and organic chemistry I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! However, already in my first week I have been amazed and astounded by what I have seen and learnt thus far.
A perfect illustration of this was on my first day. To garner a general understanding of the work and challenges the WTT face, Jonny took me to various sites that had either undergone habitat improvement or desperately needed it! He impressed onto me to look not only at the becks and rivers, but the land around them and how the topography tells an interwoven tale of both natural and man-made interactions. A particularly striking example was a beck in the Ribble valley that, due to historical human intervention was perched over 2m higher than the surrounding land and had a field drain running perpendicular underneath!
I ended my first week with a more positive example of man’s interactions with nature which took place on the River Wharfe. In collaboration with West Riding Anglers, I helped selectively hinge crack willow trunks & limbs into the channel. This was done to provide variance in flow across the river, thus providing different habitat niches and shelter especially during floods. It was wonderful to see that within seconds of a willow limb being split, fish were rising to feed on released insects in the newly created foamlines, and especially that tiny fry were taking up home within the submerged brash and leaves.
I’m really excited for what will be a fantastic summer of helping and learning with the Wild Trout Trust.