I have had the opportunity to work with Wester Ross Fisheries Trust as part of NatureScot’s Working with Rivers three-month training placement. This has consisted of an incredibly varied set of activities and experiences, and after having to complete my undergraduate degree online during COVID, it has been great to be out and about in the field!
A key focus of the placement has been on riparian habitat restoration and non-native invasive species, not only for the benefit of wild salmon and trout populations but also the wider plant and animal species in Wester Ross by creating a healthier and more productive ecosystem as a whole. I have had lots of days out participating in both riparian plant surveying and invasive species surveying and removal, particularly of the dreaded Rhododendron ponticum!
I have also had the opportunity to attend several training courses as part of the placement, which has been really useful in increasing my knowledge. This has included courses from the River Restoration Centre in Hydromorphology and Catchment Wide Restoration Planning. This was incredibly beneficial not only in increasing my understanding of different river features and characteristics, but also by learning how to apply this in practice when developing management plans to provide multiple benefits for the whole catchment. I also attended a course in Aviemore delivered by Buglife and SFCC on surveying river invertebrates. This really boosted my identification skills of invertebrate species (and help alleviate my fears of creepy crawlies!) and we are now looking to apply the sampling techniques we practiced to learn more about the species in our own rivers in Wester Ross.
One of the best days so far has been an expedition to Glen Douchary, just north of Ullapool - hiking for 10 miles across the hills in boggy peat, with all 4 seasons in one day! We carried out a ground survey within the upper catchment of the Rhidorroch River, which is very prone to bank erosion and collapse. We were identifying and logging sources of large sediment input into the streams where banks had collapsed, in order to develop solutions to reduce peak flows, erosion and sediment transportation in the river. It was a really interesting day and highlights what has been the most useful part of the placement for me: learning “on the job” by being out in the field with experts and seeing the issues firsthand
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on this placement and have gained some great experience. I would encourage anyone interested in the placement to apply. It has been a great way to broaden my knowledge and gain practical skills at the same time, and will hopefully making me a stronger candidate for further employment in this sector.
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