An Initiative set up by the Westcountry Rivers Trust, Westcountry CSI is a growing community of citizen scientists taking a closer look at our local rivers across Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
With our Westcountry CSI (Citizen Science Investigations) scheme we will give you the tools needed to detect signs of healthy – or unhealthy – rivers and streams.
£20 will kit out one citizen scientist with enough equipment to monitor their river for a year. This data is incredibly useful to us, even before we look at the actual data we can use the reports to understand where we have groups of people that are interested in their local rivers and where people can and do access rivers (lack of access is a significant barrier to people getting more engaged with rivers).
We can use the data itself to map water quality issues, invasive plants and wildlife sightings which will help us to identify problems and target our resources where they are most needed and perhaps help us to organise/support volunteer activities.
What does each kit contain?
- Turbidity tube – this measures how murky the water is. Brown, muddy water is a sign that soil is getting into the rivers. This soil is likely to have been washed off farms, gardens or roads and so is often contaminated with chemicals. This soil and sediment can also settle to the bottom of the river, covering stoney or gravelly habitats which are important for a range of species including fish.
- Total Dissolved Solids probe – measuring TDS gives us an overview of the quality of water in the river, by measuring the level of inorganic salts in the water. These salts may come from natural sources, but can also come from sewage or run-off from industry, agriculture and urban areas.
- Phosphate test kit – phosphate is a nutrient used by plants, and is often applied to farms and gardens to improve plant growth. However, when it washes off into water, and especially when it reaches lakes and ponds, phosphate can cause some plants and algae to grow too much, outcompeting other plants and blocking out light.
By measuring these key indicators of river health we can better understand which rivers need our help to get back to being clean and full of life.
Plus, citizen science has many other benefits. Individuals, community groups, families and schools are able to learn new skills, join a community of committed volunteers and enjoy a greater connection with the world around us.