Get involved in Community Science – Riverfly Monitoring

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Serious pollution incidents can occur in our watercourses, spelling disaster for river ecology. Regular monitoring is the best way of identifying such incidents early and enabling a rapid response; so why not get your school involved in this real life community science initiative? It’s a great way to bring a science topic to life and empower your students to make positive environmental changes along the way.

The Angler’s Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) was launched by the Riverfly Partnership in 2007 to enable anglers and other interested groups to actively monitor and protect their local rivers. It helps rivers to be monitored more widely and at greater frequency than is possible by the Environment Agency alone.

The ARMI monitoring technique involves pairs of volunteers taking three-minute kick samples from the river bed each month, and recording the presence and abundance of eight pollution-sensitive invertebrate groups. The focus of the sampling is on ‘riverflies’ – mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies – which are sensitive to pollution and therefore act as biotic indicators. If invertebrate numbers drop below expected levels the Environment Agency are informed and will take action to investigate the suspected pollution incident. The Riverfly data held by each river group will also allow for long-term changes to be identified, and the regular presence of volunteers on the river will discourage potential polluters.

Getting your school involved in this ‘live data collection’ initiative is a great way of bringing science to life and developing students’ scientific skills! Several schools and river groups around the country have already developed curriculum linked resources and lesson ideas, which can easily be found using an online search engine.

ARMI is already used widely in the UK as a ‘neighbourhood watch’ for rivers, practiced by anglers, environmentalists and community groups. It has proven effective in identifying pollution incidents and ensuring action is taken. In several cases this has led to prosecution of polluters by the statutory authorities and has prevented similar future incidents. ARMI are recognised on all Water Framework Directive River Basin Management Plans in England and Wales.