Yesterday we were out on the Windrush with scientists from the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Senior Scientist Dr. Andrew Singer and PhD student Holly Tipper are conducting research on the insights into pollution gained by looking at the microbes that live within what many of us call the freshwater shrimp, also known as gammarus.
Here is one close up. You should be able to see it easily enough, looking like a very small shrimp. That is just a piece of decaying vegetation next to it. Maybe its lunch.
The concept is that microbes respond to the environment in which they live. If the microbes live in (and on) freshwater shrimp, their DNA will reflect the history of challenges they have had to face, such as seasonal changes in nutrients, food, climate and of course sewage.
Searching for shrimps at Burford.
By looking into the DNA of the microbes found in the shrimp, the scientists aim to establish correlations between chronic sewage exposure and/or the chemicals found within raw and treated sewage—in particular, antibiotics—and pollution-associated genes in the shrimp’s microbiome
The tricky bit.
If the relationship between pollution and DNA is sound, it might offer a novel method of rapidly sampling freshwater systems, enabling a uniform sampling system that can be rolled out nationally (and globally).
Not only did Holly catch some gammarus (shrimps) in the tiny spring fed stream you see in the photo below, she also caught three small fish! Bullheads, also known as Millers Thumbs.
Below is a small bullhead, maybe an inch (25mm) long, caught in the tiny stream. They don't grow much bigger. He or she went back in the stream to carry on with what he or she was doing before being interrupted.
We dropped in at several interesting sampling points yesterday and for this session ended up above Naunton The river there was looking a lot healthier than it was downstream at Burford.
It wasn't always like that in the lower reaches, as many of you have been commenting. We are determined to get the river back to good health with your support and help.
Keep a look out on the website and social media for our upcoming journey from Windrush source to the Thames. We will also be back on the river soon looking for the full range of 'riverfly' larvae with another expert with a different aim.