Citizen science for the environment

Citizen science for the environment


Riverfly on the Esk

One of Scotland’s many ‘citizen science‘ projects helping to keep our environment healthy is ‘Riverfly on the Esk‘. It’s part of a larger UK-wide Riverfly Partnership that monitors the health of our rivers by counting the numbers of fly larvae that have traditionally been used by anglers to assess the quality of the habitats.

Since 2017, the Esk in the Lothians has had a band of volunteers, trained and led by the tireless Rebecca Lewis, go out monthly and sample the river, counting the numbers of these indicator fly species (‘water beasties’) and reporting back to a central database and to the environment authorities like SEPA and the local councils. Because these data are being collected at many sites from the North Esk source in the Pentlands to the sea at Musselburgh (more than 10 sites and tens of volunteers) on the river and at regular monthly intervals, any deviations from normal levels are picked up, and quickly reported. These ‘triggers’ can often be tracked down to a pollution event, from roads, fields, and even pets, and can help to change behaviours around the river. Recently, the team has added chemical testing to its biological sampling, assessing phosphate and nitrate levels: also good indicators of pollution.

Stem Digital is proud to be a part of the Riverfly on the Esk team, monitoring sites in Penicuik and Lasswade.


We have a beautiful natural environment used for leisure, sport, and just getting out and seeing nature quite close to where we live. It’s our responsibility for us to keep it clean and healthy for us and for the animals that live in it. Riverfly on the Esk is doing its bit for this great cause, alongside other great resources and teams like those detailed in the Scottish Freshwater Hub.

The team can be seen out and about sampling from the Esk, and also chatting with the local community in schools and at fairs like the Midlothian Outdoor Festival.

See more about Riverfly on the Esk (including if you’d like to join the team) at the Facebook page and @on_esk on Twitter. Get in touch:

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