StreamScapes: 30 years of working with communities
Mark Boyden from StreamScapes tells us about how over the last three decades StreamScapes has inspired local communities around Ireland and published localised booklets to help them understand the wonders of their local waters and wildlife.
It’s now thirty years since a small, voluntary think-tank assembled in the late 1980’s to consider how to respond to a collapse in water quality, after reading “Fish Kill” headlines on a regular basis.
Admittedly, we were Salmon aficionados, not necessarily anglers but all in love with the redeeming potential of the lore surrounding bradán feasa, keenly aware of salmon being dependent upon a wide suite of similarly pollution-intolerant species, and of how this entire ecosystem was inextricably linked with the highest water quality.
We founded Coomhola Salmon Trust and put in motion actions which would lead to the establishment of the StreamScapes Aquatic & Biodiversity Community Engagement Initiative. One important measure that arose out of these deliberations was the creation of easy-to-understand introductory publications which would address water-related issues; the water cycle itself, pollution, food webs, water quality assessment, and other similar issues.
During the 1990’s we conceived and published ‘StreamScapes Basic’ (intended for primary schools) and ‘StreamScapes Advanced’ (for secondary schools and lay adult community groups), together with their accompanying and dedicated ‘Teacher’s Guides’. With time, and field experience of community engagement, we saw that the localisation of environmental education greatly enhanced its effectiveness. In more recent years we took the generic material and repackaged it in a local context by:
- having an iconic local image as the front cover;
- featuring a local catchment map as booklet centre-fold;
- describing the habitats and species, from source to sea, in the catchment in question (using Fossitt classification), and;
- providing further catchment-related information, relevant local contact details as well as local sponsors’ logos.
In retrospect it seems like such a simple and resource-efficient action, to take generic information and localise it, but to date we’re not aware of this technique being utilised elsewhere.
With StreamScapes projects we ideally target direct project participation of a small critical mass of local population (generally circa 5%), however, to build project capacity, a widely-distributed booklet can reach a much greater number of people and assist in creating great local currency of water quality and biodiversity issues. Despite the growth of social media and web-based learning, there is still a place for an attractive colour booklet on a kitchen table!
The EPA, various Departments, State Agencies, and numerous Local Authorities have supported these publications which have reached thousands of households.
World Water Day 2019 saw the launch of the latest iteration, ‘StreamScapes Dodder’, which has added to a stable of StreamScapes books which cover catchments across Ireland north and south including the Erne, Ulster Blackwater, Slieve Gullion, the Burren, South East Galway, the Feale, Laune, Lee, Poulnasherry Bay, the Ilen, Loobagh, and the Catchments of Bantry Bay.
StreamScapes booklets can all be downloaded at www.streamscapes.ie/research/ and further information is available from Mark Boyden at email@example.com or on 027 50453.
EPA Research Report No. 155 – Public Engagement in Integrated Catchment Management: StreamScapes Recommendations can be downloaded using this link: www.bit.ly/streamscapesresearch