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SNS Conference 2016  
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Freshwater Revival
25 Years of Freshwater Conservation

Many thanks to our speakers and everybody in the sudience
who made our 2016 conference such a success.

The SNS organising team also wish to send our special thanks to Nikki and her colleagues at Wherstead Park; who ensured everything ran smoothly and made our work so much easier.

      The Suffolk Naturalists' Society puts on a conference every two years, but you can still watch video of the presentations in our 2014 conference 'Nature's New Scientists' by clicking here: All presentations in 2016 were also filmed and will be available to watch again in due course.

Some comments sent to us about 'Freshwater Revival' ...
 "I just wanted to reiterate my thanks for all your hard work in organising what was an interesting, vibrant, enjoyable conference on Saturday. I thought the audience, variety and quality of speakers, venue and staff were all excellent. I have left with a very high opinion of the Society, its members and its officers."
Dr. Trevor Bond Environment Agency
 The Suffolk Naturalists conference on Saturday was superb. All the speakers were excellent and the venue and organisation could not have been better. Thank you, and very well done.
Jos Slade
 We had a fantastic response to the People Ponds and Water project with around half of all attendees signing up to get involved in some way.
Pete Case, Freshwater Habitats Trust
 "Congratulations on a really superb day. Really flawlessly put together and organised. Fascinating mix of speakers. Huge pats on the back. "
Nicky Rowbottom
 "I would just like to say a big thank-you to Gen, Ben and Martin for delivering an excellent thought-provoking and informative Conference on Saturday. I am looking forward to re-visiting the talks on-line when Ben has them up and running as it was all too much to take in for one day!"
Joan Hardingham
 "A great event yesterday, well done. Cheers,"
Howard Mottram
 "just a quick note to say how much Tricia and I enjoyed the conference. It was easily the best of its kind I have been to. A truly inspiring range of speakers - brilliant stuff "
Colin Lucas
 "Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed the conference at the weekend. Great speakers and all so interesting. So much work must go into these and it is much appreciated."
Toby Abrehart (Abrehart Ecology)

      The details of our 25th anniversary conference are reproduced below.

Venue and conference format:

      The conference was again held at Wherstead Park just off the A14 near Ipswich, which was such a successful venue in 2014 as well. Our heartfelt thanks to Nikki and her team for making everything easy for us and seamless for our audience.
      Most presentations were 35 minutes long interspersed with shorter 10 min ones as detailed below.
      There are links to relevant websites for most speakers in the programme below, which is followed by biographies of the speakers.


The conference programme is shown below.

      09:30     Arrival and registration (Tea and coffee are available from the cafe)

      10:00     Welcome and introduction to the day

      10:15     People, Ponds and Water
Dr Naomi Ewald from the Freshwater Habitats Trust was to have been our speaker but she will now be replaced by the Director of the Trust, Dr Jeremy Biggs and Pete Case – the Regional Officer for People Ponds and Water.

They will speak about the innovative projects the Trust is running such as: The Flagship Ponds Project, PondNet and Clean Water for Wildlife.

      10.50     Review of pond conservation and changing attitudes over the last 25 years
Juliet Hawkins (short presentation)

      11:00     Forgotten Ponds and Ghosts: resurrection ecology and pond conservation in farmland
Dr Carl Sayer, University College of London and part of the Norfolk Ghost Ponds Project. This is in fact Emily Alderton's pHD project "Investigating the potential for old agricultural ponds – which have either been deliberately filled for land reclamation, or which have been allowed to disappear gradually through terrestrialisation – to be returned to the landscape.  We are especially interested in the role of the old seed and egg bank buried within these ‘ghost ponds’, and how it can contribute to their re-colonisation."

      11.35 A look back at the changes at Lakenheath Fen since 1995
Dave Rogers, RSPB (short presentation)

      11:45     Break for Tea and Coffee (provided)

      12:10     River restoration in Suffolk - the challenges of working in low-energy systems
Dr Trevor Bond, Environment Agency

      12.45     25 years of the Freshwater Invertebrate Survey of Suffolk
Adrian Chalkley (short presentation)

      12.55     Lunch – a range of options is available from the café or bring your own

      13.40     The effect of landscape scale conservation on riparian mammals in the Eastern Region
Darren Tansley, from the Essex Wildlife Trust & Essex Water for Wildlife Project

      14.15     Little Ouse Headwaters Project
Helen Smith (short presentation)

      14:35     What can water beetles tell us about aquatic conservation?
Dr David Bilton, University of Plymouth & secretary of the Aquatic Coleoptera Conservation Trust

      15.10     Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust       Click here to visit their website
Mary Norden (short presentation)

      15:20     Tea and coffee break (available from the cafe if required)

      15:55     European eels: the science and the mystery
Dr Alan Walker, from CEFAS

      16.10     The New Dragonfly Atlas
Adrian Parr (short presentation)

      16.20     Questions and discussion

      16:45     Close of conference

Presentation Summaries and Speaker Biographies

People, Ponds and Water
Dr Naomi Ewald, University College London
Naomi will now be replaced by the Director of the Trust, Dr Jeremy Biggs and Pete Case – the Regional Officer for People Ponds and Water.

      Dr Jeremy Biggs is the co-founder and Director of the trust. Jeremy has over 25 years experience in the field of freshwater biology. His research interests focus on the maintenance of aquatic biodiversity at a landscape scale, and how different land management practices can mitigate the effects of pollution on the water environment. He leads several large partnership projects such as the Water Friendly Farming initiative and the Million Ponds Project. He is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Environment Bank Ltd, of the Research Advisory Group for the Defra Demonstration Test Catchments Project, and is a trustee of Wildlife and Countryside Link. He is also actively involved in the voluntary wildlife recording sector and is life member of the British Dragonfly Society.

      Pete Case, Central England Regional Officer for People Ponds and Water, joined Freshwater Habitats Trust in 2015 to work within the People, Ponds & Water Project, though his first interest in freshwater wildlife can be traced back to a childhood spent hunting for dragonflies and newts on farmland in rural Nottinghamshire which eventually led to a career in nature conservation. For many years he has worked for The Wildlife Trusts restoring river floodplains through Water Framework Directive (WFD) projects, managing wetland nature reserves for wildlife and people, and working with local community groups to help them understand life in the ponds and rivers of Worcestershire.”

      For nearly 30 years, the Freshwater Habitats Trust has been championing the value of freshwater habitats for wildlife, particularly the small waterbodies like ponds, headwater streams, flushes and ditches, which are often undervalued and overlooked when setting conservation policy and priorities at a national level. Our aim is to protect freshwater life for everyone to enjoy by identifying the best, protecting our most threatened freshwater plants, animals and their habitats, and building out from high quality areas to create a thriving Freshwater Network.

      We believe the best way to achieve this is to increase people's enjoyment, knowledge and experience of freshwater wildlife. Through the People, Ponds and Water project we want to inspire people to connect with, understand, and appreciate the freshwater environment. In this presentation Jeremy and Pete will outline the three project elements, and the FHT plans for their roll out in Suffolk. Flagship Ponds, the best of the best freshwater habitats in England and Wales; Clean Water for Wildlife, a citizen science project measuring the true state of nutrient 3 pollution across all freshwaters; and PondNet our national volunteer pond survey network.

A Review of Pond Conservation and Changing Attitudes over the last 25 years
Juliet Hawkins,

      Juliet has advised farmers in Suffolk for 30 years on a wide range of nature conservation issues with firstly Suffolk Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group and latterly Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Over that time Juliet has lost count of how many ponds she has surveyed and advised on, but it is over 1,000 of Suffolk’s estimated 22,000, many of them whilst working on SWT’s Pond Project and helping draw up plans for farm pond restoration under Countryside Stewardship’s Higher Level Scheme. During this time, Juliet has fallen in love with great crested newts, water beetles and stoneworts.

      This short talk will look at how pond conservation priorities have changed in the last 30 years and how pond management has changed from quite formulaic ‘cleaning’ out of a farm pond in 1986 to a rather more measured, sensitive and targeted restoration approach today.

Forgotten Ponds and Ghosts:

resurrection ecology and pond conservation in farmland
Dr Carl Sayer, University College London

      Carl Sayer is a Senior Lecturer in freshwater ecology within the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC), University College London (UCL). His expertise lies in the field of aquatic conservation and he is especially interested in ponds, lakes and rivers in lowland landscapes. Carl is a co-founder of the River Glaven Conservation Group in Norfolk and a founder of the Norfolk Ponds Project. He is a regular advisor to the The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, Natural England and The Rivers Trusts on aquatic conservation and restoration issues. Carl is passionate about the need to communicate research findings to local wildlife groups, land-owners and the general public to help enact positive change in the aquatic environment.

      Carl's talk will highlight the origins, history and current status of ponds in East Anglia. It will outline a major need for conservation efforts at the landscape or "pondscape" scale and will also show the remarkable processes that allow ponds to recover very quickly after management. It will even reveal how lost "Ghost Ponds" can be resurrected from beneath the fields to dramatic effect.

A Look Back at the Changes at Lakenheath Fen since 1995
David Rogers, RSPB

      Dave is the site manager for RSPB at Lakenheath Fen and also oversees another reserve in the Brecks. He has worked in nature conservation for nearly 25 year, first for English Nature and Natural England in Kent, moving to the Fens and RSPB 4 years ago. Wetland and woodland management has been Dave’s main focus throughout his career, with Lakenheath neatly combining both. Dave's career has included working out on reserves doing practical land management and in the office doing case work for designated sites.

Presentation       Lakenheath was created as part of wider work to understand and reverse the decline of bitterns as a breeding bird in the UK. This presentation will look at how a wetland has been created from farmland on the edge of the Fens, its colonisation by key species including bittern and where we might go in the future.

River restoration in Suffolk – the challenges of working in low-energy systems
Dr Trevor Bond, Environment Agency

      Dr. Trevor Bond is a Geomorphology Technical Specialist at the Environment Agency. Having received a first-class honours degree in Geography from the University of Southampton in 2009, he went on to complete a doctorate entitled "Understanding the effects of cattle grazing upon English chalk streams" at the same university in 2012. In the same year Trevor begun work at the Environment Agency as a geomorphologist, where he has remained since. Sitting within the Fisheries, Biodiversity and Geomorphology team at the Environment Agency, Trevor's day job focuses upon river restoration, habitat enhancement and the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD).
      More widely he is active on social media, acting as an official Environment Agency tweeter (https://twitter.com/TrevBondEA) and co-founder of the River Management Blog (https://therivermanagementblog.wordpress.com). Most of Trevor's spare time is taken up by his pet cat and playing football for Trimley Athletic Football Club.

Presentation       Geomorphology is the study of the earth's surface and the processes that form it. Today we are using our understanding of geomorphology to improve the natural world. Historic land-use management over millennia has greatly affected our watercourses, for the most part leaving them degraded and denuded from their pre-human state. This is especially apparent in Suffolk, where the Environment Agency are actively involved in partnership projects across the county that aim to enhance the ecology of our rivers. In this presentation we will visit a number of examples of river restoration from the Waveney, Stour and Brett rivers. We will also consider the importance of linking river processes to aquatic ecology and how our understanding of these links has changed over the last few decades".

25 years of the Freshwater Invertebrate Survey of Suffolk
Adrian Chalkley,
Consultant and Freshwater Invertebrate County Recorder

      Born in London, Adrian Chalkley was given 'The Observers book of Pond Life' for Christmas 1960; made himself a net, wandered off with a jam jar to Bexley Park lake and has been studying aquatic life ever since. He taught for 34 years always with an aquarium and occasionally a pond in his classroom, to the despair of several caretakers. He has been a member of the Freshwater Biological Association since 1982, Suffolk recorder for freshwater invertebrates since 1990 and has run taxonomy courses for the Field Studies Council for the last 10 years. He is a contributor to the various national recording schemes, a verifier for iRecord and now finds conducting surveys as an independent aquatic consultant allows him greater access to the fascinating sites within our county. In 2010 he founded the Cladocera Interest Group, a taxon which will doubtless make an appearance in his presentation.

      Coincidently I became a county recorder at the same time as we held the first SNS Conference. Most new county recorders take over their role from the previous incumbent and inherit a knowledge base but there had never been a Suffolk Freshwater Invertebrate recorder before. In fact people may be surprised by the fact that the majority of English counties still do not have a recorder for these groups so unlike recorders for birds, butterflies, plants etc. we are a rare species!
      In this short talk I will look back at starting from scratch to build a database of Suffolk aquatic invertebrates, which now contains over 30,000 records. From locating archive records and the difficulties of getting reliable new data sent in to the possible impact of modern systems such as iRecord I will look at the coverage achieved thus far of our county. I will discuss the number of species represented in each taxon group and illustrate both the most common and the rarest species in our ponds and streams as well as those oddities which seem to be misplaced here in Suffolk or are new colonisers of the county.

The Return of the Natives – The effect of landscape scale conservation on

riparian mammals in the Eastern Region
Darren Tansley, Essex Wildlife Trust

      Darren’s first mammal work, as a Greenpeace volunteer, involved seal rescue in Norfolk during the 1988 phocine distemper outbreak. In 1998 he returned to full-time education, studying Conservation Management, during which time he undertook his first water vole radio-tracking project at the RSPB’s North Warren Nature Reserve. After work with the Suffolk and London Wildlife Trusts and water vole surveys of all the Essex river catchments, he joined Essex Wildlife Trust in the role of Water for Wildlife Officer. Shortly afterwards he was invited to become an Associate Tutor in Riparian Mammal Ecology at the Field Studies Council, Flatford Mill.
      Darren is currently The Wildlife Trust’s national representative on the UK Water Vole Steering Group and co-ordinates the Essex Water Vole Recovery Project and Riversearch Essex Otter Survey. Outside work he has helped to establish the Essex and Suffolk Dormouse Group, co-authored the 2014 edition of the “Mammals of Essex” and served as Chairman of the Colchester Natural History Society.

Hear Darren on “A Life With… water voles” BBC Radio 4:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dhrms

      During the last 25 years the Eastern Region has witnessed dramatic reversals in the fortunes of its riparian mammals. Otters, represented in the UK fossil record for approximately half a million years, were only just starting to recover in 1990, after extirpation from most of lowland England. The first national survey of water voles showed an inexplicable decline in their distribution that accelerated even further over the next decade. Opinion was still divided amongst Britain’s top mammal ecologists regarding the impact, if any, of invasive mink in the environment and virtually nothing was known about the status of water shrews due to a lack of available survey data. This talk looks back at efforts to effectively re-wild the rivers by examining the role of species reintroduction, the importance of surveys and monitoring, the rise of the citizen scientist and the paradigm shift from nature reserve management to landscape-scale conservation. Twenty five years later can we sleep easy or is the ‘Return of the Natives’ ultimately doomed to fail?

Little Ouse Headwaters Project
Dr Jo-Anne Pitt, LOHP,

      Jo has been involved in practical conservation volunteering, for a very long time. She was a founder member of the Little Ouse Headwaters Project and has served as a trustee, and at times Chair, since the project was set up in 2002. She has a background in wetland and aquatic ecology, which is useful for the LOHP but also comes in handy in her day job with the Environment Agency’s national Research team, where she works on the development of ecological assessment methods and nutrient standards for rivers and lakes.

      Mind the gap: re-uniting the valley fens of the Little Ouse headwaters.
The upper Little Ouse river valley contains a mosaic of diverse habitats, including internationally important valley fens. Twenty years ago these wetlands were in rapid decline, suffering from many years of fragmentation, dehydration and neglect. Land ownership was equally fragmented, with the last surviving fen parcels and adjacent land owned by village charities and numerous private individuals. The Little Ouse Headwaters Project was established by concerned local residents in 2002, with the aim of bringing these habitats into active conservation management, increasing connectivity along the river corridor and extending public access. Community involvement is fundamental to the LOHP strategy - after 15 years the project is still led and run by volunteers from the local area, and now manages around 70 hectares of land in the valley.

What can water beetles tell us about aquatic conservation?
David Bilton, University of Plymouth

      David is Reader in Aquatic Biology at Plymouth University, His research spans a range of topics, including biogeography, dispersal biology, ecophysiology, systematics and aquatic conservation. He has published over 150 scientific articles and is co-author of the most recent Royal Entomological Society Handbook on water beetle identification, as well as the forthcoming atlas of British and Irish diving beetles and allies. Work over the last decade has focussed on gaining a better understanding of why most species are rare in the first place, as well as whether rare and common species might respond differently to ongoing climate change, and how well protected area networks conserve aquatic biodiversity. As well as work in the UK, David has conducted fieldwork in many parts of the world, concentrating in recent years on the diverse and endemic fauna of the Western Cape of South Africa, where large numbers of new species and genera are being discovered as a result.

      With an estimated 20,000+ species globally, aquatic beetles are one of the most diverse animal groups living in inland waters. Water beetles have evolved around 20 times from different terrestrial ancestors, and occur across a very wide range of waterbodies, making them ideal for investigating a range of ecological and evolutionary questions. The talk will look at how aquatic beetles can inform wetland conservation, from providing insights as to why some species may be rare in the first place, to the designation of protected areas and the likely responses of aquatic organisms to global climate change.

River and wetland restoration –
a perspective from the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust

Mary Norden, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust

      Mary has worked in nature conservation for about 20 years; much of this has been in wetlands and rivers/canals, in East Anglia and Greater London. For her MSc research she assessed the impact of phosphate and salinity upon aquatic invasive species and undertook a sabbatical in South Africa surveying an amazing area of wetland and wildlife (not withstanding a few interesting moments avoiding the crocodiles and hippos). In her role for the Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust, she implements a range of projects in partnership with landowners and other stakeholders, funded largely through the Water Framework Directive and the Environment Agency, to improve the ecological condition of waterbodies. In Suffolk these are part of the East Suffolk Watershed Initiative – for a recent update on these see the newsletter:
In Essex, her work has involved strategic assessment of WFD data from various sources to identify appropriate solutions, consultation and survey and subsequent / ongoing development of a new suite of potential projects in the River Colne catchment of North Essex.

      Mary’s presentation will highlight the key steps taken to implement a river restoration project and the importance of both technical expertise and working in partnership.

European eels: the science and the mystery
Alan Walker, Centre for Environment and Fisheries Aquaculture Science

      Alan has a dual role in Cefas as Group Manager for “Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems Research” within the “Fisheries and Ecosystems Division”, alongside his role delivering research and policy advice to the UK Government on the conservation of European eel, Anguilla anguilla, and the management of associated fisheries and other human impacts. Alan directs UK and international research into developing and improving eel assessment methodologies. He presently chairs the EIFAAC/ICES/GFCM Working Group on Eel that delivers annual stock advice to the European Commission, and he has chaired various ICES workshops on eel data collection, management plan evaluation and most recently on developing non-detriment finding criteria for CITES.

      The European eel is an iconic and mysterious fish, which many people rarely see but instantly recognise. The species has been in stark decline since the early 1980s, at least based on the reduced number of juveniles returning from its oceanic spawning area. Its conservation and management are driven by local, national and international initiatives, backed up by scientific investigations in inland and marine waters. Alan will explore the mystery of the eel, explain the regional drivers to its conservation, and describe some of the science applied to improve the situation.

Suffolk Dragonflies – the new 2016 Atlas
Adrian Parr, Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder

      Adrian is the British Dragonfly Society’s migrant dragonfly specialist, and also a member of the BDS Dragonfly Conservation Group. He is currently secretary of the national Odonata Records Committee, and has been Suffolk Dragonfly Recorder since 2008. Adrian’s enthusiasm for dragonflies first started nearly forty years ago, and while much of his interest has a UK perspective he also has significant experience abroad. He has published extensively on aspects of dragonfly migration – mainly phenomenological, but also some more theoretical aspects. He is one of the co-authors of the recent (2014) Atlas of Dragonflies in Britain and Ireland, and has also written on the effects of climate change on Britain’s dragonflies.

      Back in 1992, Howard Mendel and the SNS published the book “Suffolk Dragonflies”, which was based on extensive fieldwork carried out in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This excellent publication marked the first major analysis of the county’s dragonflies and the threats that they faced. Over the last two decades, changes in land usage, changes in water quality and significant climatic warming have, however, resulted in major perturbations to the county’s dragonfly fauna. The time was thus right for Mendel’s work to be updated. A new study of Suffolk dragonflies, based on fieldwork over the period 2008–2014, is now nearing publication. It shows that, with just a few exceptions, the county’s dragonflies are doing very well. Many have extended their ranges since the time of Mendel (1992), and several species have appeared in the county for the very first time. Two of these, the Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis and the Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum, are indeed recent colonists to the UK as a whole. By contrast, a few species are doing less well, though fortunately none are as yet threatened in the county. The Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa is one species that may have declined, and while it is still common and widespread, proportionately fewer records of the Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans are being received than used to be the case. An awareness of these changes, and of the continuing effects of climatic warming, may allow future trends in Suffolk’s dragonflies to be predicted, and inform on any conservation activities that may need to be undertaken.