De Berkel river Encounters: Relations about biodiversity, mapping and cyanotypes

by Catalina Rey-Hernández & Laura Giraldo-Martínez 


On the 22nd of September, 2023, a citizen science event (De Berkel Home River Bioblitz) was hosted in the re-meandered area of De Berkel River next to the village of Almen, Netherlands. 

De Berkel Home River Bioblitz was realized as part of Catalina Rey-Hernández’s PhD project (Wageningen University of Research) and as part of the wider project “The Home River Bioblitz” ( 

A Home River Bioblitz is a global citizen science initiative documenting animals, plants, and fungi living in and around rivers. It is a collaboration among citizens, scientists, naturalists, river enthusiasts, and volunteers of all ages to conduct a field study of biodiversity over a short period of time to show the importance of free-flowing rivers as hosts of much of the world’s biodiversity. 

During this Bioblitz students from Wageningen University, Hogeschool van Hall Larenstein, ecologists from the Rijn en IJssel waterschap, historians, and other researchers, connected and explored the biodiversity of the Berkel River through the identification of species, participatory mapping, and creating ‘portraits of the river’. 


Biodiversity identification 

At the start of the day, we documented the biodiversity in and around the river through a digital tool called “iNaturalist”. 

iNaturalist an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other to learn about nature. This app helped us to identify plants and animals in the river to generate data for science and conservation. At the same time, by sharing our observations through this app, we were able to connect with the species of the river and to understand and sustain biodiversity through the practice of observing wild organisms and sharing information about them. 

Through a couple of hours we were able to identify 74 different species with 145 collective observations. 

Photos: Laura Giraldo y Carolina Cuevas, 2023

Graph: Species identified during De Berkel Home River Bioblitz, source:


Participatory mapping 

After collecting these observations we represented our findings through a participatory mapping activity where we spatially located the identified species and at the same time we reflected on other elements such as infrastructures, contamination, land use, human activities, agriculture, etc. And through that exercise we were able to re-construct connections and interactions between these different elements, understanding that the river is not only the water and its ecosystem but also its history and connection with other actors that are constantly interacting with it.    

This map also allowed us to share knowledge among us, co-creating a visual representation of De Berkel to understand the different river-territorial insights that each participant had about the river. The main objective was to co-create an eco-political map based on alternative visualization of spaces usually not represented by official state agencies. To do so, we gather around an initial canvas where we discuss, explain, and draw ecopolitical relations, landscape interventions, and territorial transformations. 

Photos: Laura Giraldo, 2023

Cyanotypes workshop with water from the Berkel River 

To conclude the day we did a special activity carried out by researcher Laura Giraldo based on a methodology created by the Colombian photographer Fernando Cruz in the Bogotá River Project developed by the entre—ríos network. With this method, we created portraits of the river using the same water samples. With that, we revealed images made in situ without a camera using the water of the Berkel. This workshop is a variation on the traditional way of making cyanotypes or blueprints. 

What is a cyanotype or “blueprint”? 

The cyanotyping (or blueprinting) process consists of reacting ultraviolet light to a chemical mixture. This mixture consists of ferric ammoniacal citrate and potassium ferricyanide diluted in water. The sun-printing process is produced by the incidence of the light against the negative. And the light that reaches the cyanotype through the translucent areas is what causes the photosensitive reaction showing those Prussian blue tones. 

Photos: Laura Giraldo, 2023

Finally, we closed with some discussions and reflections about the activities of the day. 

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