|I joined the River Dee team recently as the Dee Catchment Outreach Officer.
I am based at the River Office at Dinnet and work part-time for the River Dee Trust and part-time for the Dee Catchment Partnership.
My role is to encourage interest, understanding and responsible use of the River Dee and raise awareness of river-related issues.
This post, which is secured until March 2016, is the first of its kind for Scottish rivers and recognises the importance of the river to the Deeside community. This post has been supported by funding from The MacRobert Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Aberdeenshire Council and the Marr Area Committee.
The primary aims as the Dee Catchment Outreach Officer are to raise awareness of the River Dee among school children, improve understanding of recreational use and access on the river and communicate the importance of the river and its management. I will also be delivering projects to raise awareness and promote ways to improve urban water quality in Aberdeen, such as the Yellow Fish Project, which aims to promote awareness of the importance of keeping waste, chemicals and fats out of the drainage network.
Dr Lorraine Hawkins, River Dee Trust Manager, says “It is essential that both local people and visitors to Deeside enjoy and take an interest in the river, to safeguard the river for future generations and for the wildlife it supports. This post reflects that there is more to be done to engage people fully with the river”.
I am currently developing an education pack for use by primary and secondary schools. The pack will encourage schools to use the river as an educational resource and will be tailored to fit with the Curriculum for Excellence. To develop this educational resource I welcomed my first school group to the River Dee this month with three primary 5 classes from Banchory Primary School. We met first in the classroom to talk about the River Dee catchment, the lifecycle of Atlantic salmon and the value of the River Dee to the local economy and tourism industry. The children have been reading ‘Wind in the Willows’ and were keen to learn more about ‘Ratty’ (who is actually a water vole) and the effect that mink have on water voles within the catchment.
On a rainy October morning the first of the three classes visited the River Dee at Invery in Banchory to learn more about the river. Luckily the rain stopped in time for local Ghillie Karl Revel to show the group fishing equipment and demonstrate fly fishing. River Dee Trust staff then electro-fished and caught juvenile salmon for the children to look at closely and learn more about the incredible life cycle of salmon in the river. But the catch that caused the most excitement was a very large eel! All children thoroughly enjoyed their trip to the River Dee with the River Dee Trust.
The Banchory Primary School classes have undertaken homework projects on a native species found in Scotland. The colourful and detailed posters created about salmon, freshwater pearl mussels, heron, eel, red squirrel and water voles have inspired me with ideas for future school groups.
I am keen to hear the views of teachers or any other groups who have visited the Dee before or would like to in future and also from schools who received a riverbank resource box. Any teachers that would like to cover the River Dee in school, please contact me at Joanna@riverdee.org or phone 01339 880 411.
The Dee Catchment Partnership is a voluntary association of catchment stakeholders who work together to protect and restore the water environment and promote water management.