Project Officer, Yasmin, presents the LIFE R4ever Kent project at SEFS13 – Europe’s largest freshwater science conference.

The Symposium for European Freshwater Sciences (SEFS) is in its thirteenth year and this year was not only held in the UK for the very first time but was also hosted by the Freshwater Biological Association.

As a founding member of the European Federation for Freshwater Sciences (EFFS), the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) was honoured to host this year’s largest freshwater science conference in Europe – a symposium that not only brings together the European freshwater community but fosters long-term, international collaboration and partnerships.

Taking place on 18th – 23rd June 2023 in Newcastle Upon Tyne at the Frederick Douglass Centre, Newcastle University, SEFS13 brought together almost 500 delegates from around the world. Following on from the success of SEFS12, which was an entirely virtual event due to COVID19
travel restrictions, the FBA was delighted to be able to offer the opportunity for delegates to physically get together, collaborate and network for the first time in four years.

SEFS13 was a six-day conference that included a vast array of plenaries, parallel oral sessions and oral poster presentations covering a wide range of freshwater science topics including climate change, biomonitoring, biodiversity, ecology, restoration and conservation.

Attending the conference and giving an oral poster presentation on the LIFE R4ever Kent project was Yasmin AliEskandari. Yasmin is the LIFE R4ever Kent Project Officer at the Freshwater Biological Association, where her work is focussed around the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Species Recovery Centre working alongside Head of Science, Dr Louise Lavictoire, and Pearl Mussel Assistant, Jodie Warren.

The Freshwater Pearl Mussel Ark was established in 2007 and has been captive breeding the freshwater pearl mussel – one of the most endangered freshwater invertebrates in Europe – with the aim of trying to save local populations in England from extinction.

The freshwater pearl mussel is found only in very clean rivers and streams that are low in calcium and other nutrients. Some of the biggest threats facing pearl mussels in the wild are pollution, nutrient enrichment, high sediment loads coming from land run-off, and climate change. The future status of the pearl mussel is heavily dependent on the restoration of their habitat, as well as an increasing in their overall population size through captive breeding.

Many of the existing wild populations are ageing, with the youngest mussels in the river being over 70 years old due to juveniles being most affected by poor habitat conditions. The Freshwater Pearl Mussel Ark has been breeding juveniles from several English populations in order to boost wild populations and have now started releasing juveniles back into their native rivers.

Over the five-year duration of the LIFE R4ever Kent project, one of the key aims is to Increase the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel population by 3,000 through a captive breeding and population reinforcement programme.

At SEFS13, Project Officer Yasmin engaged with hundreds of delegates from around the world, introducing the LIFE R4ever Kent project through her oral poster presentation, titled, ‘Investigating suitability of potential donor populations of juvenile freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera) to restore the river Kent SAC [Special Area of Conservation], Cumbria.’

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