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The highest tier of citizen science invertebrate monitoring

Water Pattern - Wildfish


We’re helping to fill the national monitoring gap in UK rivers

Invertebrates are collected from rivers in spring and autumn using the industry standard three-minute kick sweep sample. They are preserved and identified to species level, where possible, under a microscope.

Individual species have varying tolerances to certain pressures. The impact of organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, chemicals and flow stress on a river can be assessed with SmartRivers monitoring.

Invertebrate communities are a key component of a river’s food web. Loss of invertebrates indicates the loss of species such as salmon, otters and kingfishers from the ecosystem.

“My work for SmartRivers is incredibly rewarding. I see the huge enthusiasm for the training from people who really care about the health of rivers.”
Roger Owen
SmartRivers trainer and former Head of Ecology at SEPA
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish

Our network

We work with groups in England, Scotland and Wales.

Click on the points on the map to find out the name of the host organisations and rivers sampled through SmartRivers.

Key Stats


the number of rivers SmartRivers has covered to date.



reduction in water quality sampling by the Environment Agency between 2013 and 2021.


hours of training undertaken by volunteers so far.

Want to set up your own SmartRivers hub?

1. Establish a hub and recruit volunteers

You will need an organisation to host the hub.
We need around 10 volunteers to launch a hub and a hub lead/coordinator (this is commonly a local conservation group). Hubs are river based.

2. Site selection

For your river you will need to choose 5 sample sites. It is helpful to think about what are you keen to investigate? For example sites above and below restoration projects or potential polluting discharges.

3. Get a professional benchmark

A professional scientist will come and complete an initial benchmark on your chosen sample sites, in spring and autumn. This provides a scientific ‘baseline’ for your river.

4. Complete your training

Training is two full days and is usually run in conjunction with benchmarking. The course is certified by the Institute of Fisheries Management.

5. You’re ready to start sampling!

SmartRivers monitoring takes place twice a year (spring and autumn) and there are two pathways to choose from:

Sample and identify

Volunteers do all the sampling and analysis themselves. For hubs completing their own ID, we pick a sample at random each season for a quality control check – to provide volunteers with valuable feedback.

Sample and send

Volunteers collect the sample and post it to a professional lab for identification for a modest cost

What data does SmartRivers produce?

Here's why we go the extra mile

Assessing biodiversity

The invertebrate records produced allow us to assess changes in invertebrate diversity and abundance, to highlight areas at risk.

As the foundation of the food web, changes to invertebrate communities alter the natural balance of river systems. This has implications for wildlife, like fish, that rely on invertebrates as a food source.

Water quality scorecards

The species found at each site are input into our database, which generates a water quality ‘scorecard’ identifying the impact of organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, chemicals and flow stress.

This provides invaluable insight into the condition of the habitats wild fish populations depend on.

The national picture

All our hubs have local objectives, but their hard work also contributes towards the national picture.

We break down the SmartRivers dataset annually, looking at national water quality and biodiversity trends across our SmartRivers sites.

View latest report

Report appendix


The SmartRivers database

SmartRivers data is all open-access.

View and upload data using the link below.

Email to request a login.


Project News

Stay up to date with the latest news from across our projects.

View all news

SmartRivers: spring roundup

Thank you volunteers for another brilliant season. The highest level of invertebrate citizen science monitoring is not easy. T...
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Citizen Scientists we need you!

Do you regularly spend time on a UK river? Or are you part of a volunteer group? If so, WildFish are looking for new hubs to pa...
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WildFish respond to United Utilities questioning of SmartRivers report

In February you may have seen our SmartRivers report produced in collaboration with our partners at Save Windermere. This data ...
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