Celebrating Female Scientists for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

11th February 2022 - General Catchment

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re celebrating some of our amazing female scientists making up our female dominated team here at West Cumbria Rivers Trust. Here’s a spotlight on our Fisheries Project Officer- Ruth Mackay.

Ruth and Sarah Clarke, our Project Assistant, conducting fish surveys

Ruth joined the Trust after completing her degree in Physical Geography and a Masters in Polar & Alpine Science. As a child, Ruth wanted to be a Postwoman when she grew up so she could spend all her time outside. Fast forward to 2016 and Ruth joined WCRT to work outside 7 months of the year conducting fieldwork to monitor trout and salmon (salmonids) at various stages of their lifecycle. Ruth avoids the Cumbrian weather the other five months to write reports on the fish and catchment health as well as act as the Trust’s GIS Officer producing maps and scale drawings, and working with other data sets that aren’t all about fish.

Ruth spends her summer season monitoring up to 160 sites across the River Derwent Catchment from its source near Borrowdale to the coast at Workington, working with a team of dedicated interns and volunteers, including the local angling clubs. This past 2021 season Ruth monitored 3454 trout and 4026 salmon alongside stickleback, eels, minnow, flounder, crayfish, stoneloach, bullhead, bleak and pike. Over the last winter Ruth has been working closely with other organisations across the country undertaking similar survey work, as well as the Environment Agency, to improve consistency in data and work towards a standardised methodology and equations for analysing the results. Her work in fisheries, is vital in understanding the long-term trends in salmonid populations on the Derwent, to understand the impacts of restoration works and targeting areas requiring work.

Ruth and members of her survey team, made up of interns and volunteers, conducting fish surveys on St John’s Beck

Ruth also works on projects to track the progress of smolts (teenage salmonids) as they head out to sea for the first time in the spring, conducts fisheries consultancy work for the Trust and assists in fish genetic studies. She says: “I never thought I would end up working in Fisheries Science, however there are loads of opportunities out there that I never even realised were options for careers whilst I was at school. I find my job varied and interesting, and best of all I get to work outside most of the year, wading about in the rivers and streams of the Lake District.”

More information about our fish monitoring programme can be found on our website here. If you’d like to get involved as a voluntary intern or casual volunteer further information can be found here.