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Collecting data on biodiversity and the pressures impacting wild fish.

Water Pattern - Wildfish

Human activities put rivers under constant pressure from a variety of pollutants – almost everything we do on land has a consequence for our waterways. This pollution stops rivers supporting healthy populations of freshwater species.

Despite this, government monitoring continues to decline, in both frequency and coverage.

SmartRivers is a scientifically robust, nationwide citizen science scheme that is helping to fill the monitoring gap. Our high resolution invertebrate monitoring produces invaluable evidence to protect wild fish.

“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

Our hubs

Click on the pinpointed locations to find out the name of the hub and the river they sample

Key Stats


the number of rivers SmartRivers has covered so far.



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


the number of river sites planned for monitoring spring 2023.

How does monitoring invertebrates help wild fish?

Species-level analysis is not for everyone. 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 pressures

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.

Invasive species & climate change

Our volunteers detect invasive species, providing better insight into their distributions.

Finding certain invertebrate species can also be indicative of climate change pressure.

Both climate change and the presence of invasives can change ecosystem functioning which impacts wild fish.

SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish
SmartRivers - Wildfish

The benefits

What you get out of starting a SmartRivers hub

An indication of what improvement efforts are needed/where to focus them, or if works you have undertaken are making a difference.

Multi-year reporting from your monitoring and support with using your data to make change. We will work with you to discuss the data and its implications with relevant stakeholders.

Evidence to help inform the national picture and drive action. We use your data as part of our wider work to fight for better protection for our rivers.

Want to sign up?

Here is how it works

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


Project News

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2022 SmartRivers data highlights excess sediment and chemical pollution as key stressors for over 50 rivers

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Smart Science

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We need to be cautious with family-level assessments of freshwater invertebrate biodiversity

A response to the recent Centre for Ecology and Hydrology research article - Qu et al, 2023. On the face of it a research ar...
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