Catchment Data & Evidence Forum 2020

Today I attended the virtual Catchment Data & Evidence Forum 2020, run by the Catchment-based Approach and the Rivers Trust.

The forum is being held from today to 20th August, with lots of interesting talks taking place over the next couple of days. Check out the website to view the programme and email the Rivers Trust to see if there are spaces left to register –

Lucy Butler (Rivers Trust) started the conference with an introduction, stating we had delegates joining from lots of different places including Denmark, USA and the Netherlands! This Catchment Data and Evidence Forum was born out of the CDUG forum, which continues to support the Catchment-based Approach. Dave Johnson (Rivers Trust) then stated the aims of the group were:

  • Identify evidence and opportunities
  • Inclusive forum for exchanging expertise
  • Incorporate ideas and expertise of wider community and encourage co-design

The main session then kicked off with a keynote presentation from Professor Alex Inman (Exeter University). Alex presented on the ‘Provision of data and evidence within the context of changing behaviours’. This presentation demonstrated the components driving human behaviour. Alex mentioned how it is crucial to take time to understand your audience and what they want, before you start showing them data that they might find meaningless. Alex outlined the aspects of behaviour, including an individual’s sense that they can carry out an action successfully, and help them reach an expected outcome. Also, an individual needs to believe that a certain behaviour can be performed. Beliefs shape an individuals attitude towards behaviour, so people need to be convinced there is a need for them to take action or act a certain way. An individual is also impacted by social norms and identities. These are frames of reference for appropriate behaviour, and how we think about the way we behave.

Alex mentioned ‘Double loop learning’, which is a new outlook on norms and identities. This considers assumptions which inform the first loop learning and review with data and evidence. This can be used to work out what the catchment issues are that we want to solve, identify the problems, and build relationships.


Alex then answered a question regarding the recent exam results model, and how they could have communicated the situation better. Alex said transparency would be better, and earlier communication of the actual methodology they used. They also didn’t take expert advice, which aided the distrust. This shows transparency and communication from an early stage are key points to consider in any catchment project.

We then had a series of ‘lightning talks’, where each presenter had a maximum of 5 minutes 30 seconds to demonstrate their project.


Session 1: Making data & evidence more collaborative and accessible


First was Barry Hankin (Lancaster Environment Centre & JBA) who presented on collaborative end user scenarios for NFM modelling. This looked at modelling for NFM, to identify how to improve and refine areas for suggested NFM approaches, for maximum effectiveness. This project identified 5 scenarios incorporating hydrological functions of soils, storage and runoff interception, peatland restoration, woodland, and working towards doubling the impact NFM efforts are currently having. The project focused on small catchments (<10km2) and populations in frequent flood zones, to narrow down to smaller scenarios where NFM ideas would be most effective. It was also mentioned that it is important to provide partners with maps and statistics on key areas which would benefit most.

Lucy Butler (Rivers Trust) then gave an overview of the CaBA Coastal Data Package. This is a national database of over 150 datasets from government agencies, government bodies, research and academia, and citizen scientists. There was a gap in the CaBA data package, and so they developed this to include coastal data. A further 30 online GIS layers related to coastal, marine and estuarine environments were added, along with a user guide. A range of data layers are available including data on habitat, coastal erosion, socio-economic information, impacts and pressures, and strategic planning information.

Next Dave Gurnell (Cartographer) gave an update on the Modular River Survey (MoRPh). This is a physical habitat survey for rivers. Cartographer develop the online platform, and have added new features to support MoRPh. These updates include:

  • Workspaces offering separate websites for groups working on separate MoRPh surveys. These workspaces list your surveys, offer tools for assessment, plus you can view surveys from all other participating organisations.
  • Integrations so you can import and export with different applications. The update includes automatic integration from cartographer onto ArcGIS online, with no manual downloads or uploads. Cartographer are also working towards getting MoRPh data into the CaBA data hub.
  • Mobile app to get data directly into the Cartographer interface. This app links to your workspace and surveys. It is currently in beta but will launch on iOS and Android for free later this year.

Next was Sim Reaney (Durham University), presenting on the SCIMAP Toolkit. This application looks at where to place NFM interventions to reduce flood risk. The model looks for a critical source area, where lots of issues are all occurring in the landscape, i.e. on average where most pollutants are coming from. The application calculates catchment risk ratings, and can use a range of parameters such as rainfall, land cover, sediment, pollutants and erosion risk potential for sediment.

Catherine McIlwraith (The Rivers Trust) then gave a presentation on ‘NFM Ponds & Wetlands: Estimating potential storage capacity through GIS analysis’. This looks at estimating the volume of water likely to be held back using NFM features. Catherine pointed out that whilst this is a difficult task for smaller organisations and Trusts due to a lack of expertise or expensive equipment; these trusts are well placed to do this modelling due to communication and contacts within the local community.

Catherine explained the preliminary feasibility analysis and available tools such as GIS. Land use information, LiDAR, drone/UAV footage can all be interpreted to help determine best location for NFM interventions. Modelling in GIS can provide an indication of whether the storage capacity gained from the NFM measure being installed, is likely to be beneficial. This data can also be used in further consultation and engineering plans.


The last presentation of this session was on Drones for Conservation, from Adrian Hughes (RSPB GIS team). Adrian mentioned how over the last few years, drone usage has developed in all sectors, with better access to equipment. This method can be useful for capturing aerial imagery, producing Digital Surface Models (DSM), and interpretation for habitat classifications. RSPB use drones mostly for aerial imagery and visualisation. For example, they can capture the condition of heather moorland, then overlay other data layers such as base maps, reference data and archaeology data. Tools in GIS can be used to help manage water and peatland in RSPB reserves. Similarly, habitat classifications can identify problem areas and set baselines for restoration works.


Lightning talks 2: Influencing change through data and evidence

Following a short break, Jayne Mann (CaBA Communications Team) gave an engaging presentation on how to make data more visually appealing. She stated 90% of information absorbed by the brain is visual. The use of infographics or gifs is beneficial to communicate the impact of your project or work, raise awareness and gather support. To affectively display data visually, it needs to highlight the problem, be backed up with data, and provide a conclusion if possible. It can help to use quantity, and give the most important information the most visual weight.

Canva and Biteable are useful programmes for designing infographics and material.

The next presentation in this session was from Holly Pearson (Westcountry Rivers Trust) on the use of portable water quality kits for monitoring and farmer engagement. Holly started by pointing out the simple changes that can be made in farming practices to reduce the risk of pollution. She explained what they are looking to measure in the water, including nutrients, colour, turbidity levels, and electrical conductivity. Nutrients such as phosphate and nitrate provide an indication of eutrophication or presence of high levels of manure. The colour of water shows the levels of dissolved chemical compounds and potential erosion of peatland environments. The turbidity identifies sediment levels in the water, indicating potential erosion of farm tracks and river banks. The level of sediment also shows the significant potential for sediment to be a vector for other contaminants to be carried to the watercourse. Conductivity looks for ions in the water, to indicate whether any silage liquors, slurry or salts are entering the channel, and could indicate pollution events.