RiverLife has been busy lately. Training our volunteers is an important part of our Project and, at Forth Rivers Trust, we have wholeheartedly jumped in these last few months to train our committed volunteers in skills such as Electrofishing, Pesticides application and first aid. By ensuring our volunteers undergo this training we are increasing their connection with the river and making it more accessible through new activities.

First off, electrofishing training is unique. The Trust provides volunteers with an introductory course to skills that allow them to assist in catching fish safely using small electric currents through the water. This is highly regulated and very concise training that makes it easier for Rivers and Fishery Trusts like ours, to get an estimate of fish populations each year. By skilling up our keen volunteers in this area we can allow them to accompany us on excursions to local rivers and burns and let them see first-hand how the Trust monitors its rivers, and also help us to catch and observe what lives in their rivers under that watery surface. These rivers that they cycle by, walk along with their dog, or litter pick next to with their fellow community members are often filled with an abundance of life that is unknown. We have tried to change this lack of knowledge when we have been out electrofishing this Summer, by talking to as many people as possible about what we have in our bucket! Our volunteers have been agents of engagement now that they have the skills in this field!   

To assist with ensuring our volunteers are safe when out electrofishing – and at other activities – we put on Outdoor First Aid Training which helps to make sure everyone is equipped when out and about! The training is run alongside the electrofishing because this activity has a higher risk, but all volunteers benefit from undergoing outdoor first aid training if they are out with us or even with other groups! It is a fun filled two-day course that allows us to practice scenarios that we may face in the outdoors, learn how to run through first aid procedures until they are common practice and get taught by real first aiders who have encountered many casualties in real life situations. I’m sure the volunteers feel way more prepared for any situation that may arise now!

Finally, we have the longest course that we provide as part of our training; the Pesticides course.  This three-day event is training to allow people to get skilled in how to properly and safely apply pesticides, especially along a watercourse. This training is vital for us to be able to treat Invasive Non-Native Species like Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed by asking volunteers to help us with that treatment. Once trained, the skills are practiced and perfected in the real-world environment under our advisement. Our 10 volunteers who just got trained have now received their certificates and are ready to get practicing by accompanying our staff out along the rivers! We also teach the ID of the target species and then after a time volunteers can go ahead and take on maintenance of the riverbanks alone, but under our guidance. This formula is widespread in the world of Fishery and Rivers Trust and is the most sustainable way to treat already entrenched invasive species colonies. Of course, the best way to deal with invasive species is prevention in the first instance which is where biosecurity comes in!

But I digress, the only thing left to say is congratulations to all of our newly trained volunteers and I’ll be glad to work with you further so you can get out and use your new skills!