Voluntary river survey work leads to rare species spotted

Voluntary river survey work leads to rare species spotted  name

Work by University of Cumbria zoology BSc (Hons) student Suzanne Collinson may help signal an improvement in fish life within a Cumbrian river.

Recent work experience with the Eden Rivers Trust saw her survey the River Caldew and record a young eel, a species now classified as critically endangered as its population has declined by 95% in the last 25 years. “The eel is a fascinating fish which spends most of its life in freshwater rivers and lakes before journeying to the Sargasso sea in the North Atlantic to spawn” Suzanne said.

Over the last twelve months the second-year student has volunteered with the Trust and helped monitor our native white clawed crayfish which still thrives in the river Eden catchment. She has also learned about the threats from the invasive signal crayfish which carries porcelain disease and crayfish plague, both lethal to white clawed crayfish.

 “I went on to assist the learning and outreach team with their school programme which involved visiting primary schools and talking about the health of rivers, the wildlife found in and around them along with class room experiments to demonstrate rainfall and soil erosion,” Suzanne said.

Pictured: Suzanne Collinson receiving her volunteer of the year award at the University of Cumbria Student Union Salute Awards. 

Suzanne edit, Suzanne getting an award

She was involved in tree planting with primary schools in areas around north Cumbria affected by Storm Desmond with work to encourage and inspire young people continuing through river sampling as part of the Eden Rivers Wonder World exhibition held over the summer at Tullie House.

“The Eden Rivers Trust is a charity based close to where I live and the work has helped extend my skill set and experience in the ecology of our local river systems, gaining experience in monitoring techniques and in school engagement activities,” Suzanne said. “I enjoy teaching the next generation the importance of nature and wildlife and hopefully inspire them to make changes. It all goes to enhancing my C.V, meet wonderful people and a great way to network with potential employers.”


A volunteer with the Watchtree nature reserve kids club, Suzanne was awarded community volunteer of the year at the University of Cumbria Student Union Salute awards in recognition of her work to inspire others.

“Suzanne’s work has certainly been varied and without doubt her voluntary activities have helped inspire a whole new generation of zoologists,” zoology lecturer Dr Mic Mayhew said.