Invertebrate Monitoring

Our Invertebrate Monitoring Team 

Our AMI group continues to monitor the health of the river by monthly surveys of invertebrate life -  Mike Lowings writes:   "If you refer to our AMI data for the last 12 months you'll now know just what we're counting!! [ED: Unfortunately AMI are not currently making data available to unregistered members of the public but the rest this page and a visit to provides a good overview of this fascinating activity.]
 We've also taken a few short video clips to show the fascinating mayfly larvae in action...they are strong swimmers and are constantly moving their gills (exposed along their backs)  - click on:  
Misbourne Mayfly Larvae - 26 Feb 2012 . Of course, all were safely returned to the river after the count!"

The detail of these observation up to April 2016 showing counts of each indicator and notes of specific sightings of fish and bugs, can be downloaded  here. From April, our results are being uploaded direct onto the National database where they can be seen at - select Misbourne from the list of rivers and then scroll through the various sites. Two slides of the results from monitoring in 2012 interpreted and published by the Environment Agency are presented below.



What are Invertebrates?

Ninety percent of all animals on the planet are invertebrates.  Invertebrates are animals which do not have a backbone.
nsects, worms, spiders, jellyfish, starfish and crabs are all invertebrates.  Each species has its own life cycle. Many lay eggs, some hatch as larvae and others as miniature adults.  

Why Monitor Them?

 Studying the population of invertebrates in a river can tell much about its health.  For instance, changes can indicate pollution.  The Environment Agency require "before and after surveys" as part of the environmental studies before they can endorse proposals for lining the selected leaking bed sections.

 Our Team

 A group of volunteers led by Mike Lowings  attended a training day last year to brush up their bug counting skills before taking to the river in earnest.   Jane Penson provided the following report:


River Health Monitors Ready to Go

On Saturday 14 May 2011, seven Misbourne volunteers assembled at the The John Spedan Lewis Trust field centre at Leckford in Hampshire.  The purpose of the visit was to learn about assessing the quality of the water in our river by identifying certain critical species of river fly (the canaries of the river), counting them and recording the results.  In this way, we will be able to create a record that shows variations in water quality to add to the existing one showing flow rates. 

The River Invertebrate Monitoring course is well established and run by the Riverfly Partnership:  a group of organisations including anglers, conservationists, entomologists, scientists, water course managers and relevant authorities who are interested in monitoring and conserving river fly health.  The tutors were dedicated, helpful and beyond the reasonable in terms of their knowledge of this strange underwater world.

We received class-room tuition including slides showing blown-up pictures of the tiny creatures we need to identify, and then at last we donned our waders and headed for the river.  Those of us under 5’6” tall found that waders are not designed to be comfortable for us, but we found ways to deal with that.  We spent a happy hour disturbing the river bed and catching everything including silt and weeds in our nets and tipping it into big white buckets. (Do you remember rock pooling when you were seven years old?)

The most fascinating part of the day was back at the field centre identifying what we had caught with the patient help of the tutors.  I was astonished at the intricacy and beauty of these creatures when viewed through a microscope.  We learned how to use a counting system that has been specially devised to be quick and easy for amateurs like us while being accurate enough to build a useful database.

The course is officially recognised by the Environmental Authority.  This is important because the EA will now set a trigger level appropriate for our river and will respond with an investigation if we are able to demonstrate that fly counts fall below that level. We heard about several instances where pollution has been identified far earlier than it could have been without the growing army of ‘graduates’ from this course all over the country.

So, now that we can tell our ephemeroptera from our plecoptera, we are ready to apply this knowledge to the Misbourne and look forward to reporting the results on this site in the months to come.

Support from the Chiltern Society for funding the course and the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project for a grant covering monitoring equipment costs is gratefully acknowledged


More Info?

1. Contact Mike Lowings at

2. Click on this link  Misbourne Invertebrates for a fascinating and detailed paper describing the Misbourne invertebrate populations before and after the implementation of the Alleviation of Low Flow Scheme Part 1.

3. See pages 5 & 6 of this link River Fly.  The author, (and co-author of the paper above), Judy England is our contact for this subject at the Environment Agency.  

 4. See attached article by John Norris.