Whoever said adults couldn’t have fun splashing around in water has never met the Environment Agency! Though there is more to the Environment Agency than just having fun in the water, the EA have dedicated teams that survey our rivers to obtain all sorts of data from chemical compositions to hydro-morphological form and fish to invertebrates to inform them about the health of our rivers and how best to manage them.
Our very keen volunteer river splashers, ahem I mean River Wardens, wanted to learn more about invertebrates. So with that a very interesting and educational workshop run by the EA on surveying and identifying river invertebrates was held on a rather windy day at Gamlingay Eco-Hub.
John and Josh, our EA trainers for the day, took us through a very practical and hands on approach to learning about invertebrates, providing an overview of why surveying for invertebrates is useful for monitoring the health of rivers and the key species we would find before heading out to the Millbridge Brook to get stuck in!
Once on site and at a suitable location we were shown the kick-sampling methods the EA employ when they survey the rivers. After the demo, the river wardens were all too keen to try their hands (or should I say feet!) at practicing the technique, collecting the samples in buckets. Once we had enough samples to keep us occupied for the rest of the workshop we returned to the Eco-Hub for sorting and identification.
With expert oversight, incredibly useful ID guides/books and fuelled by tea and coffee we worked through the sample sorting out each into the separate Orders. After a short session we had at least 10 different orders separated out with the River Wardens having a fairly good grasp over the differences between them, after a spot of lunch we had a go at identifying the inverts down to family level with good success!
We were all pleased to be able to see such a diversity of invertebrates living within the local freshwater environment. It certainly gave us plenty to look at on the day!
Identifying freshwater invertebrates, like with all identification, is definitely a case of practice makes perfect! We will aim to have a practice session or two before letting the wardens loose to see what inverts they can find on their own stretches!