RHS certification course – September 2016

River Habitat Survey Certification course, Cardiff, September 2016

A 4-day RHS certification course will take place in Cardiff (Wales) on the 5-8 September 2016.

This comprehensive course will cover all aspects of the RHS methodology .  There will be extensive field work at a variety of sites to give participants plenty of practical experience. A field and written test will take place on the last day of the course. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website.

The course will also feature presentations on applications and a hands-on session on Habitat Quality Assessment and context analysis using a software that we will make available to participants free of charge.

The cost of the course is £650 (there is no VAT to be paid). This includes course material and software, packed lunches, refreshments and transport to field sites. The fee does not cover accommodation and evening meals.

WarningWhile the course and tests will be to the standards of the Environment Agency it is important to note that the course certification is not currently recognised by the English Environment Agency. Surveyors who intend to do work for the Environment Agency in England need to attend one of their accreditation courses. The RHS certification course will be an exact replica of the RHS accreditation course and will include additional material on applications and data analyses.

RHS certification course – 1 place available

The RHS certification is nearly fully booked.  There is one place available.  Please contact us if you wish to attend!

A 4-day RHS certification course will take place in Cardiff (Wales) on the 9-12 May 2016.

18092013873This comprehensive course will cover all aspects of the RHS methodology .  There will be extensive field work at a variety of sites to give participants plenty of practical experience. A field and written test will take place on the last day of the course. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website.

The course will also feature presentations on applications and a hands-on session on Habitat Quality Assessment and context analysis using a software that we will make available to participants free of charge.

The cost of the course is £650 (there is no VAT to be paid). This includes course material and software, packed lunches, refreshments and transport to field sites. The fee does not cover accommodation and evening meals.

Please contact us if you wish to attend. (Link to calendar event)

WarningWhile the course and tests will be to the standards of the Environment Agency it is important to note that the course certification is not currently recognised by the English Environment Agency. Surveyors who intend to do work for the Environment Agency in England need to attend one of their accreditation courses. The RHS certification course will be an exact replica of the RHS accreditation course and will include additional material on applications and data analyses.

RHS course May 2016 – fully booked

The RHS certification is now fully booked.  

We got a lot of interest for the course in the UK and abroad and we are considering organising an additional course in the autumn.

Please contact us if you are interested in getting trained in the autumn (2016) indicating your preferred dates.

A 4-day RHS certification course will take place in Cardiff (Wales) on the 9-12 May 2016.

training1This comprehensive course will cover all aspects of the RHS methodology .  There will be extensive field work at a variety of sites to give participants plenty of practical experience. A field and written test will take place on the last day of the course. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website.

The course will also feature presentations on applications and a hands-on session on Habitat Quality Assessment and context analysis using a software that we will make available to participants free of charge.

The cost of the course is £650 (there is no VAT to be paid). This includes course material and software, packed lunches, refreshments and transport to field sites. The fee does not cover accommodation and evening meals.

WarningWhile the course and tests will be to the standards of the Environment Agency it is important to note that the course certification is not currently recognised by the English Environment Agency. Surveyors who intend to do work for the Environment Agency in England need to attend one of their accreditation courses. The RHS certification course will be an exact replica of the RHS accreditation course and will include additional material on applications and data analyses.

River Habitat Survey refresher courses for surveyors outside the UK

We are planning River Habitat Survey Refresher courses between April and June 2016 specifically targeted at accredited surveyors outside the UK whose accreditations have lapsed and we would like to gauge the level of interest.

We decided to organise these courses following a series of queries from practitioners abroad who wanted to have their accreditation refreshed.

We are recognised by the English Environment Agency as competent RHS trainers (certificate available on demand). Our team was responsible for the development of RHS in the mid-1990s as well as applications and derived methodologies. We were recently involved in the training of RHS trainers in the Environment Agency and abroad and we have accredited and refreshed several hundreds surveyors and trainers in the past 20 years.

Please note that this course is not designed for surveyors working in England. Surveyors who intend to do work for the Environment Agency in England need to attend one of their refresher courses.

River Habitat Survey Refresher course (2 days)

The course will feature presentations, field work, quizzes, discussions and a written and a field test. The test will be to the standards of the Environment Agency. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website. The course will include presentations on applications.

Venue: Southampton (venue to be confirmed)
Cost (estimated): £300 (Including room hire and lunches but not including accommodation and dinners)

If you are interested in this course, we would be grateful if you could send us an email at info@riverhabitatsurvey.org.  Please tell us how many people are likely to attend and any request/preferences with regards to course content, dates, venue, content etc.

River Habitat Survey training courses 2016

We are planning River Habitat Survey Certification and Refresher courses between April and June 2016 and we would like to gauge the level of interest in the community of RHS users in the UK and abroad.

We decided to organise these courses following a series of queries from practitioners abroad who wanted to be accredited or have their accreditation refreshed.

We are recognised by the English Environment Agency as competent RHS trainers (certificate available on demand). Our team was responsible for the development of RHS in the mid-1990s as well as applications and derived methodologies. We were recently involved in the training of RHS trainers in the Environment Agency and abroad and we have accredited several hundreds surveyors and trainers in the past 20 years.

Please note that we are offering RHS certification to avoid confusion with the English Environment Agency (EA)-run accreditation scheme. The RHS certification course will be an exact replica of the RHS accreditation course and will include additional material on applications of RHS and data analyses with hands-on practice.  The RHS certification is particularly suited to surveyors abroad who do not have access to training courses in their own countries.

WarningWhile the course and tests will be to the standards of the Environment Agency it is important to note that the course certification is not currently recognised by the English Environment Agency. Surveyors who intend to do work for the Environment Agency in England need to attend one of their accreditation courses.

River Habitat Survey Certification course (4 days)

The course will feature field work, quizzes, discussions and a written and a field test. The test will be to the standards of the Environment Agency. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website. The course will include half a day workshop on practical applications of RHS (e.g. calculating indices, data analysis and interpretation, application to Water Framework Directive etc.).

Venue: Cardiff or Preston (to be confirmed)
Cost (estimated): £600 (Including room hire and lunches but not including accommodation and dinners)

River Habitat Survey Refresher course (2 days)

The course is aimed at surveyors outside the UK who have been trained in RHS and need a refresher course. It will feature presentations, field work, quizzes, discussions and a written and a field test. The test will be to the standards of the Environment Agency. We will maintain a database of certified surveyors that will be publicised free of charge on the RHS website. The course will include presentations on applications.

Venue: Southampton (to be confirmed)
Cost (estimated): £300 (Including room hire and lunches but not including accommodation and dinners)

If you are interested in any of the courses, we would be grateful if you could fill in this form  (click here) or send us an email at info@riverhabitatsurvey.org.  Please tell us how many people are likely to attend and any request/preferences with regards to course content, dates, venue, content etc.

Books on rivers and river management

Rivers by Nigel Holmes and Paul Raven
Rivers_book_coverAn attractive new book by Nigel Holmes and Paul Raven should be a ‘must-read’ item for those with a professional, academic or general interest in rivers. Entitled simply ‘Rivers’ it is number 3 in the British Wildlife Collection series, and has 432 pages packed with more than 300 colour photographs, plus charts, graphs and other images. The sub-tilted theme is ‘a natural and not-so-natural history’ and the book describes how British rivers and associated plants, invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals have been changed by Nature and mankind since the last ice age.

It describes how and why these changes have occurred and explains how subtle variations in climate, geology and human history in different parts of Britain, have made each river unique. Three rivers, the Hampshire Meon, Welsh/Cheshire Dee and Endrick in Scotland are used to demonstrate how in more detail. The overall message is that understanding how rivers behave is crucial if they are to be properly managed and conserved for the benefit of people and wildlife into the future.
Copies can be ordered from British Wildlife Publishing (£30, free P&P within the UK) – details can be found here – and orders for signed copies taken by phoning 01865 811316.

Decision Support Systems: factors affecting their design and implementation within organisations. Lessons from two case studies by Marc Naura

DSS_book_Cover

How do we ensure that scientific tools, techniques and outputs (e.g. models, software, analytical techniques) are used in the ‘applied’ world’ of industry and government? In this research, we take the example of a group of software called Decision Support Systems (DSS) to discuss, with the help of literature reviews and 2 case studies, the factors affecting their implementation success within organisations. We particularly concentrate on the study of their interaction with organisational culture and the ‘frictions’ that assumptions taken in their design may generate with existing work practice and organisational beliefs. We further propose a methodology for developing models and tools that accounts for organisational and cultural factors, and demonstrate its application on a case study in a major public environmental organisation in the United Kingdom.

The book takes, as an example, the development of ToolHab, a Decision Support System for managing river habitats within the Environment Agency, England and Wales. ToolHab was originally designed for prioritising sites for habitat enhancement work for fish and it is now being tested for other purposes, such as the delivery of a environmental targets under the EU Water Framework Directive. The case studies illustrate the practical and cultural hurdles researchers, software designers and scientists face when attempting to develop methods, techniques and tools for practitioners and what can be done about it. The literature reviewed shows that these issues are by no means restricted to the environmental sector alone but are widespread across public and private industries whether in medicine, marketing or sales. Thus, the approach suggested will be relevant to many scientist, engineers and software developers involved in the production of tools and techniques across a wide spectrum of organisations (link to website).

Site selection strategies and tools for river surveys

by Naura, M. & Hornby D. D.

Choosing a sampling strategy

How do you choose survey sites for river characterisation?

In short, it all depends on your overall aims.

The sites chosen for the River Habitat Survey (RHS) baseline surveys in 1994-6 and 2007-8 were originally identified from Ordnance Survey1:50,000 Landranger maps using a stratified sampling strategy using a 10km grid.  The aim was to get a representative picture of river habitats across England and Wales.  The stratification was introduced to provide a sample that could also be used to characterise smaller geographical units such as river basins or catchments.  Random sampling strategies without stratification may indeed produce clusters of sites in parts of the country and leave some areas unsampled. In the end, 3 RHS site locations were randomly selected within every 10km-square in England, Wales and Scotland.

Stratification can be performed according to a geographical area (e.g. squares or catchment boundaries), a river type or stream orders.  It all depends on your specific reasons for introducing a stratum in your sample.  If your aim is to compare the distribution of features across river types, you may want to stratify according to a set typology or stream orders. If your aim is to compare counties or states, then state or county boundaries may be used to stratify your sample.

You need to remember that you need to account for the effect of stratifying your sample when analysing the data.  For example, a geographical stratification using squares (e.g RHS baseline surveys) may introduce a bias when analysing the overall sample as a whole as it gives more weight to squares with low stream densities.  If, following survey, you find that 80% of your sites are heavily modified, it could be wrong to state that 80% of rivers in your geographical area are modified because unmodified streams in upland and headwaters squares will be under-represented compared to modified streams in lowland squares.  You would need to correct your statistics using stream densities for each square.

There are other methods for sampling.  One is to select sites at regular intervals (e.g. every 2km along the network from source to sea).  Regular samples generate unbiased statistics as long as the chosen sampling interval does not correspond to the ‘wave length’ of the features you want to record.  For example, the distribution of features such as riffles is a function of channel bankfull width.  Now imagine that a specific habitat feature tend to occur every 2000m.  Depending on your starting point, a 2km regular sampling strategies may completely miss the feature out.  It is therefore important to make sure that the interval between survey sites does not correspond to the interval of occurrence of features you want to record.

Selecting your sites

When we put together the first RHS baseline survey in 1994, site selection was done by hand. This required quite a bit of work by a team of people who had to select every site using paper maps and random number tables (for more details click here).  The method used for stratification itself introduced some bias.  Indeed, sites were selected in every 10km-squares by further dividing them into 2km-squares.  A 2km-square would then be chosen at random and the point on the river closest to the centre of the square would represent the midpoint of the RHS site.  This selection method meant that large rivers were more likely to be selected than narrower ones potentially introducing a bias based on river width.

Geographical Information System (GIS) can help automate the identification of suitable river survey sites and reduce sampling bias. GIS can save significant time and money; reducing an intensive manual process which requires a team of people, to an individual pressing a button and obtaining a selection of sites within minutes!

GIS selection is not bias free though!  I have seen algorithms implementing ‘random’ samples by randomly selecting polylines in a river network.  Because polylines will be of different lengths, the sample obtained is likely to be biased towards small polylines (e.g. 1m) that will be over-represented in the network compared to longer ones (e.g. 10km).

To generate random samples for my research, I used RivEX which is an ArcGIS 10.1 AddIn that can automate the sampling of river networks. Provided you possess a valid network (a topologically correct centreline network), you can generate sampling locations using random or regular sampling strategies in RivEX.

With regular sampling you can generate points on the network:

●     for each line of the network

●     at a user specified stepping distance from network mouth

With random sampling you can generate points on the network:

●     by sampling the whole network

●     by stratifying the sampling with a user defined grid

●     by stratifying the sampling with a user supplied polygon layer

Each sampling point generated is snapped to the river network and have attributes of ID, XY coordinates, intersecting polyline ID and in the case of supplying a polygon layer the polygon ID.  The sampling points generated can form the basis for your catchment or river survey but you can also use them to:

●     transfer metrics encoded into the network to the sampling points such as distance to network mouth or Strahler order;

●     query other spatial layers (e.g. geology, land use or authority boundaries);

●     generate catchment boundaries using an appropriate DEM;

●     answer network tracing problems such as identifying the nearest site downstream or upstream.

The tool is scalable allowing you to generate sampling points at a national, regional or sub-catchment level. Figure 1 demonstrates stratified sampling using CCM data for Ireland. A 10Km grid is built and each cell sampled 3 times, the entire process took only 30 seconds!

Figure 1Figure 1. Stratified sampling of rivers in Ireland. RivEX was used to generate a 10Km grid and sampled each cell 3 times. CCM River and Catchment Database © European Commission – JRC, 2007.

With RivEX you can generate regularly spaced sampling points at a user specified distance from the network mouth.  Figure 2 show the river Shannon in Ireland sampled every 10Km. Such a dataset would be vital for a walk over campaign allowing your field surveyors to survey the river at known coordinates.  I personally used this very useful function to extract GIS data for typing rivers and implementing predictive models.

Figure2

Figure 2. Regular sampling of the main stem of the river Shannon, Ireland, with a stepping distance of 10Km. CCM River and Catchment Database © European Commission – JRC, 2007.

Conclusion

Defining a sampling strategy is a very important first step in any project aimed at characterising a river catchment or area.  The choice of sampling strategy, method and intensity as well as the tool used are crucial and require careful consideration with regards to potential biases introduced.  Tools exist that can help with automate the procedures and reduce bias.

For more information, read Jeffers, J. N. R. 1979 Sampling. Cambridge, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, 7pp. (Statistical Checklist, 2). (Link to publication online)

European benchmarking: origins, purpose and outputs by Paul Raven

It was quite obvious early on in the development of RHS, and confirmed by results from the first baseline survey during 1994-97, that the UK had insufficient near-natural river channels to provide a reasonable calibration of habitat quality assessment. The ‘top quality’ benchmark sites surveyed in the UK simply didn’t do the job to cover the range of river types. So we looked to continental Europe, not only for near-natural examples, but also to see if RHS worked there. We also wanted to RHS on as wide a range of rivers as possible as part of development of the CEN guidance standard for assessing the hydromorphological character of rivers (Boon et al., 2010). It was colleagues on the CEN working group that provided the initial network of contacts.

The first phase involved comparison of different methods for assessing river morphology that were either already in use, or being developed across Europe. A very informative meeting to compare ideas and demonstrate techniques on the nearby river was held in Galloway, SW Scotland in 1998. It became apparent that even though the various methods all made use of similar river features and artificial modification categories, there was considerable variation in the ways these were recorded and how the information was used to evaluate channel form and habitat quality.

For RHS development, there were valuable lessons to be learnt by testing it across different bio-geographical regions, hydrological conditions and land-use patterns. From a UK perspective, the RHS method appeared to be sound, but if it was to be used elsewhere, specific testing would be needed and adaptations recommended in the light of experience. It was a great advantage that RHS was being used for the STAR project, involving several different European countries (Furse et al., 2006). Also, that a southern European version of RHS was being developed, specifically adapted for Mediterranean rivers (Buffagni & Kemp, 2002).

The second phase involved a specific comparison between RHS, the German LAWA method and the then French method SEQ. Rivers in France and the Pyrenees were surveyed by Patrick Charrier using all three methods. The work highlighted similarities and differences in approach, ease of use, analysis and conclusions. The conclusions and recommendations were discussed by the CEN workgroup in 2001 and published in 2002 (Raven et al., 2002).

The third phase involved the long overdue review and updating the 1997 RHS survey form. We took the opportunity to test it and testing it on rivers during our second visit to Finland, in June 2002, including streams inside the Arctic Circle. It was here that two mantras, relevant to all subsequent benchmarking surveys emerged: “always expect the unexpected”; and “never underestimate the importance of local knowledge”. We had encountered something unfamiliar to us in the UK; the forestry practice of removing boulders from the river channel so that felled tree trucks could be floated downstream to sawmills.

The 2002 Finland visit and further discussions with CEN working group colleagues triggered  the fourth phase: a programme of benchmarking trips to various countries. So far these have covered eastern Poland (2003, 2007),  Slovenia (2005), Southern Bavaria and Austria (2006), South-East France (2007), the Picos Mountains in Northern Spain (2008), Southern Portugal (2009), the Drawa River, Poland (2008, 2009) and the High Tatra mountains of Poland and Slovakia (2010). Each of these visits was written up in an illustrated report which contained summary results. Pdf versions of all these reports can be found on this website (click here). The results and broad conclusions were also published in Aquatic Conservation (Raven et al., 2010). The results from our most recent visit, to eastern Slovakia, are now being written up now. Each report has an Appendix with a series of recommendations for RHS generally and in particular for carrying out surveys on rivers in the study area

The benefits of these benchmarking surveys have been immense. We have established contact with those involved in similar work for the Water Framework Directive and river conservation right across Europe. We have had direct experience of carrying out surveys with host colleagues and being able to explain reasons for RHS and how it can be adapted and improved for use elsewhere. We have accumulated masses of new information about different rivers and how they have been affected by historical land-use change.

Through this website we will in due course be able to share RHS data on all our benchmark surveys, enabling users across Europe to see what was done, problems encountered and recommendations made. The recommendations be collated and a discussion group established to help improve survey technique and confidence in recognising unusual features in particular. We hope this leads to improved design and use of RHS and its integration with other survey work for river management and conservation purposes as well as well as academic research. This resource will consolidate progress made over the past 10-15 years and inspire others to take a broader outlook on river assessment.

 

References

Boon PJ, Holmes NTH, Raven PJ. 2010. Developing Standard Approaches for Recording and Assessing River Hydromorphology: The Role of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). Aquatic Conservation:Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20: S55-S61.

Buffagni A, Kemp JL. 2002. Looking beyond the shores of the United Kingdom: addenda for the application of River Hbaitat Survey in South-European rivers. Journal of Limnology 61: 199-214.

FurseMT, Hering D, Brabec K, Buffagni A, Sandin L, Verdonschot PFM (eds.) 2006. The ecological status of European rivers: evaluation and intercalibration of assessment methods. Hydrobiologia 566: 1-555.

Raven PJ, Holmes NTH, Charrier P, Dawson FH, Naura M, Boon PJ. 2002. Towards a Harmonized Assessment of Rivers in Europe: a Qualitative Comparison of Three Survey Methods. Aquatic Conservation:Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12: 405-424.

Raven PJ, Holmes NTH, Vaughan IP, Dawson FH, Scarlett P. 2010. Benchmarking Habitat Quality: ObservationsUsingRiver habitat Survey on Near-Natural Streams and Rivers in Northern and Western Europe. Aquatic Conservation:Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 20: S13-S30.