As with everything right now, SmartRivers (the volunteer arm of the Riverfly Census) is navigating its way through the 'new normal'.
However, despite restrictions forcing us to postpone travelling and training courses this year, lockdown gave us the time to make SmartRivers even smarter.
SmartRivers - now an IFM certified course
We are delighted to announce that our SmartRivers training course has been accredited by the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM). All volunteers who have completed and will be completing their SmartRivers training will qualify for this certification.
Having the SmartRivers training course fully certified by IFM is a great achievement for us. We have spent a great deal of time and effort working out how to transform the Riverfly Census methodology into an accessible, but scientifically robust, volunteer-friendly format. This certification gives us reassurance that our approach has been successful.
Paul Coulson, Director of Operations at IFM said:
“Following a review of the SmartRivers training course by the IFM Training Team the Institute is very pleased to be able to fully accredit the course. The course utilises an array of delivery methods and a wide range of learning materials, and is backed up with further guidance and support following the completion of the course. Trainees who attend this course will receive a high standard of teaching and will leave well equipped to assess their own waters.”
We want all our volunteers to have confidence that they are receiving the highest possible standard of training and support. We hope that knowing this course is recognised by such a prestigious body as IFM will give them that extra reassurance.
A new home for SmartRivers data
SmartRivers data is essential to our conservation and policy work. It is the scientific evidence we need to pinpoint local case studies that give us the power to make national changes. To make this data available and in an accessible form for all, we have built a free, open-access, online portal for all SmartRivers data to be uploaded, stored, interrogated and downloaded.
Lauren Mattingley, SmartRivers Project Manager, explains what the new database will tell us:
"When invertebrate species lists are submitted by volunteers into the database, they are automatically processed through a special calculator. The calculator generates values that indicate the impact of: organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, river flow and chemicals. You can look at each of these pressures locally and nationally, for a specific time period. This analysis can pinpoint what the problems are and where they are occurring, allowing us to control what is controllable and drive real improvements to the quality of water flowing through our rivers."
The existing data for hubs already part of Smart Rivers is live on the system, and the backlog of data from our Riverfly Census is being added over the next few months. If you want to take a look, we have put together a handy how-to guide with screenshots that explains how to use the database. To access the database open the guide here and email email@example.com to request a login link.
We are constantly evaluating the situation based on the ever-changing Government guidelines, but we remain hopeful that training sessions will be able to resume in spring 2021.
We are still enrolling hubs into the project. To launch a SmartRivers hub on a new river, we collect a one year professional benchmark and provide two day-long courses for groups of volunteers. We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers and not for individuals. However, if you are struggling to establish a 'hub' group your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help!