AN ARMY of citizen scientists is being recruited to keep an eye on the health of waterways in West Devon.

Westcountry Citizen Science Investigators or (CSI) volunteers gather information relating to the health of a river, stream or estuary they monitor.

This is done through visual surveys such as looking for signs of pollution, what plants and wildlife they spot, and through testing the water quality. It is a chance for people to connect with and protect their local rivers and to create future custodians.

Jack Middleton, WRT CSI Coordinator, said: ‘All our citizen scientists are trained and equipped to collate this information and upload their findings to our data interpretation system, Cartographer.

‘This helps us to build a picture of the region’s waterbodies and enable intervention if needed. The data can also be passed to water-related regulatory bodies.’

Once a volunteer has conducted 12 samples during a year, ideally monthly, it qualifies as a water body scorecard, which is shared on the WRT website.

Anyone can become a citizen scientist. Once initial online or in-person training, including safety checks, has been done, individuals, families, friends or groups are free to monitor their chosen freshwater habitats at a time to suit them.

Jack added: ‘It provides a wonderful way to connect to our diverse waterways and take action to remedy the human-made challenges they face.

‘We need volunteers to help us discover more about the health of the 850 plus water bodies (rivers, streams, estuaries) in our region which support our way of life.’

Volunteers’ data has short and long-term potential for restoring and protecting freshwater habitats across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and into Dorset.

Volunteers are therefore, part of a project that has river health at its heart.

Healthy, free flowing rivers mean sustainable health, recreation and economic benefits for humans too.

Regular water quality sampling produces robust scientific data which can be used by the WRT to identify areas of concern. It also helps a citizen scientist to get to know their river, helping to spot positive and negative changes and influence action when needed.

Andrew Brown, a CSI lives on the Morden Stream in the Tamar Valley. He has been monitoring river quality changes which he attributes to lack of adequate pollution control. He said: ‘I feel this is vital work. I’m not as scientist, but others can interpret the data. As well as river monitoring, I help survey flora and fauna including observations of the wildlife and problem plants seen along watercourses, helping to build a picture of the river ecosystem.’

The WRT also creates interactive chances for all ages to learn new skills and more about rivers and their habitats.

To volunteer: email [email protected] or visit, to find out more or to make a donation to support the work.