Guest blog: Rachel Downes, RRC summer intern 2021
Having recently graduated from university with a degree in BSc Geography, which sparked my interest in rivers, I was keen to explore potential careers in the rivers sector. I spent two weeks in September interning for the RRC; it was a busy but enjoyable couple of weeks with tasks ranging from categorising and summarising projects, to reviewing ecological data and visiting my local river.
The River Restoration Centre provides advice and guidance on best practice river restoration. With information on over five thousand projects, the National River Restoration Inventory (NRRI) is a useful database for referring to previous projects and techniques that have been implemented across the UK. These projects can be categorised into different themes. Recently, new themes have been added, including citizen science, climate change, green infrastructure, nature-based solutions, natural capital, rewilding and stage 0/floodplain reconnection. One of my tasks was to categorise projects into these additional themes so that similar projects can be searched for when enquiries are made.
To showcase the work of the RRC to prospective clients, previous river restoration projects are written up into one-page project summaries. Therefore, another of my tasks was to create summary documents of several previous projects, which will be published on the RRC website. Additionally, I compiled a list of posters and presentations from the RRC Conference 2020 which relate to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). This will enable the efficient finding of relevant information as these themes are of increasing importance due to rare species or habitats.
I was also asked to review macroinvertebrate metric data to consider the pressures and restoration options for the River Cole in the River Tame catchment, West Midlands. I read a selection of articles on the environmental history of the River Cole and considered the variety of pressures on the catchment, such as pollution and physical modification. I then used macroinvertebrate indices such as WHPT ASPT, LIFE and PSI in a multi-metric evaluation to consider the ecological impacts of the pressures on the Cole. Using this data and literature on the habitat preferences of mayfly, I then made suggestions for restoration options on the Cole with the aim to establish mayfly populations to enhance the ecological health of the river.
An opportunity also arose to visit and write about a local river. Having spent my summer in the Scottish Highlands, I decided to write about the River Coe in Glencoe. It was interesting to research more about the ecology, geomorphology and local history of the river. I also thought it would be interesting to use the opportunity to visit my local river in Cambridgeshire, the River Great Ouse, to consider the contrast to the River Coe. Read this blog post the RRC website.
My internship was a great opportunity to network and find out more about potential career paths. I spoke with Hannah, James, Marc and John about their roles and careers, which gave me an interesting insight into potential options for the future and into the work of the RRC. My future plans are now to take a year out before I recommence studying next year with a Masters in Aquatic Ecology, Conservation and Restoration – I’m looking forward to putting everything I’ve learnt at the RRC into further practice!