Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

01-05-2014: Monitoring the Hogsmill with a little help from our riverine friends

We started April in the river planting up the new renaturalised bank by knights Park, and we've ended the month learning to monitor the state of the Hogsmill and the species in it with a little help from our riverine friends and the team at ZSL.

From flies...

The Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (RMI) is a national scheme for monitoring the health of rivers developed by the Riverfly Partnership. ZSL has secured funding to allow the implementation of this nationally recognised scheme on the Hogsmill River. As part of this scheme, Kingston University students, Staff and local community groups were training in the RMI monitoring methodology on Saturday 26th April.

Kick sampling demo by Joe.
Joe Pecorelli showed the survey team how to do a standard kick sample which would need to be repeated on each visit and the best way of cleaning out the samples. This makes it easier to separate out the different invertebrate groups while standardising the sampling effort.   

The methodology is a simple standardised process of collecting a sample from the local monitoring point. From this sample, eight groups of invertebrates are identified and counted.

Local volunteers practice separating out the 8 key invertebrate groups from the samples.
These simple counts, repeated once a month, can build up a picture of what is happening under the surface of our rivers. Changes in the water chemistry are reflected in changes in the abundance and number of different species. 

The data from monitoring the sampling site at Kingston University and partner sampling organisations on the Hogsmill (Environment Trust, Kingston Biodiversity NetworkLower Mole Project and S.E.R.T) will only feed into the national monitoring scheme

More importantly, the data collected by students, staff and local community volunteers will be used to monitor the health of our river. Allowing for rapid responses to any apparent pollution incident by the Environment Agency who are partners in this ZSL coordinated RMI programme.

Emma and Leonie from the Lower Mole project separating out the sampled invertebrates. 
Will Tall from the Riverfly Partnership  shows participants some of the different species in the sample and discusses their significance to monitoring schemes.
Chris from the Environment Trust ensuring that he has long enough gloves for the job.
Steve from the Kingston University team cleaning out his first sample for sorting.
Students and other course participants practice taking their own kick samples after lunch.
If you are interested in taking part in this fantastic scheme, we are looking into organising one more training session at the University in June. In exchange for the training, you will have to commit to sampling the site 6 times. 

The University will be facilitating surveys once a month and the data that we generate can be used by students for project work as well as the national monitoring scheme. 

 ... to eels

Joe showing the team the first stage of the European eel before they metamorphose into glass eels.
Joe was busy this week as he was back at the University on Wednesday the 30th of April to conduct the first of our eel monitoring training courses.

We were told about the life cycle of the European eel Anguilla Anguilla, this involves a fascinating journey from the Atlantic to our rivers where they can spend up to 30 years maturing, before they return to the sea to spawn.  Research by ZSL has shown that the recruitment of eels in the Thames has declined by approximately 95% since the 1980’s. This pattern is mirrored by data collected from different organisations in other areas. 

Checking the trap as part of the training course.

After the talk, he took us out to inspect the eel trap on the Hogsmill. 

Showing all the crevices that eels might hide in.

Joe explaining that the eels can hide in the smallest crevices in the trap when it’s in situ, so volunteers will have to have to look carefully in all of the nooks and crannies while checking the traps. 

Weirs act as barriers to the upstream movement of eels. As well as checking the traps for animals, the volunteers will also have to make sure that the mechanism allowing eels to swim onto the trap is active. The mechanism is a corridor of brush bristles that allow the eels to weave up them, using the bristles for purchase. Any eels that are trapped are measured, recorded, and released upstream of the weir, allowing them to continue on their journey to their new homes.

Unfortunately there were no eels in the trap for the training session. But given the creation of an eel pass at Clattern Bridge in 2013, and with the first ever elvers (juvenile eels) found in the trap the week after the pass was created; we are hopeful that more will make their way up the Hogsmill in 2014.

To sign up for the next training session on May 14 2014, email

What to know more?

To find out more about the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative visit the main Riverfly partnership page 

To find out about ZSL’s work with the European eel visit their website.

You can help monitor the Hogsmill River through one or both projects throughout 2014. Your help is needed to make sure that we are monitoring the state of our rivers and help conserve and improve the Hogsmill for future generations.

To volunteer or sign up for training please email

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