Creating community-led science.
The main aim of the project was to set up a citizen science project (“Know Your River”) to engage with communities to better understand how English rivers are used for recreational activities and empower the public through participation in research activities such as surveys and water sampling for laboratory analysis to check the health status of the rivers they used.
Dr Chiara Borsetto sampling a local river
The team, led by Dr Chiara Borsetto from the School of Life Sciences, focused on monitoring pollution related to antibiotic and antibiotic resistant bacteria associated with faecal contamination, as these represent a potential risk to human health.
Dr Borsetto and her team actively promoted the initiative across their networks and beyond, using social media and presenting at scientific conferences to reach wide and varied audiences, including different groups of rivers’ users.
These included wild swimmers, kayaking groups and other citizen science projects.
In the space of one month, a total of 155 water sample testing kits were delivered across England to the volunteers that signed up for the samples collection, and 100 were returned to our laboratories for chemical and microbial analysis.
A website was created promoting the project and increasing public awareness of river pollution and associated potential implications for human health, with a particular focus on antibiotic resistance in bacteria.
A report of survey and sample analysis with contextual discussion were developed and uploaded to the project website.
An interactive map was created that is freely accessible for the public to check their rivers’ health status, including antibiotic pollution and faecal bacteria.
Through social media (Twitter and Facebook), the team created a platform for discussion on river pollution and provided an opportunity for the public to interact with them.
Engagement, including meetings with the Environment Agency, policy makers, water utility companies, wildlife trusts and other community-led projects took place to promote collaborations for future research
Feedback from the public was very positive with comments such as “excellent project”, “very exciting and worthwhile project” and “Sounds brilliant and just what we need”.
The project was presented at national and international conferences.
An interactive map of collected samples
Project presentation at international conference in Gothenburg
What is the team doing next?
The team is continuing with public engagement activities to raise awareness of links between the environment and human health, especially related to antibiotic resistance. They always welcome opportunities to collaborate with other community-led projects and continue to work with them to monitor pollution in rivers and try to identify sustainable solutions that will help improve river cleanliness and human health.”