Susan reports on day two of the Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts conference in Norway.

The sessions today were: species-specific vulnerabilities and population
effects, behavioural and spatial responses, collision risk modelling
and Methods and statistics.

Day two – Susan writes: The sessions today were: species-specific vulnerabilities and population effects, behavioural and spatial responses, collision risk modelling and Methods and statistics.

Thomas Kunz
, University of Boston (incidentally who Kelly and I know well as we referenced his work extensively in both our undergraduate dissertations) is an engaging speaker who presented his case for a new scientific discipline – aeroecology.  This unites those studying birds, bats and insects but also biologists looking at organisms that exploit passive flight, such as pollen, spores and bacteria. Importantly this discipline also includes non-ecology scientists working in this three dimensional environment – meteorologists, climate scientists, geographers and medicine (public health) to name a few.

Among many interesting demonstrations, his work to use the US network of doppler radar stations to study bats was inspiring.  This technology is most familiar to us when seen on TV weather reports and forecasts, to supply these images meteorologists have to filter out the non-weather clutter first, and some of this clutter is biological information. Dr Kunz’s work is to retrieve this discarded clutter from the virtual bin and analyse it.

His video of the “clouds” of bats emerging from roosting caves in Texas and New Mexico and travelling across south and central US was phenomenal.  There are so many applications for this, for aeroecologists, we might soon be able to view in real time the movements of flocks of birds or bats and be able to react before collision or significant displacement effects occur.

There is some very interesting work going on in Germany at wind farms more like those that we have in lowland UK – for example sited within intensively managed farmland and with species that we encounter here.  The 7 year BACI (Before After Control Impact) by Marc Reichenbach is finding much lower disturbance distances in farmland birds than in previous published research from different environments.  His work is providing the evidence that we need to support what most of us already suspected – bird behaviours (including breeding, roosting and resting) are much more influenced by the cropping regime within the wind farm than the presence or operation of the turbines.

After Tuesday’s discovery of “vulture restaurants” (which must always be pronounced in a Spanish accent) today I learned about a technique for minimising the disturbance effects to harbour porpoise when pile driving in the construction phase of off-shore wind turbines – “bubble curtains”. I need to get myself some of those!

In the evening we went out of the city into the snowy birch forest and around the frozen lakes to see beavers, some very impressive dams and lodges. It was a brilliant trip and I now have a huge fascination for these animals. I should say though that on the way out I was sat with an Aussie and a Kiwi who were completely overwhelmed with joy at seeing a road sign that said “farthumper” (pictured)!

See tomorrow for a picture of myself and Fiona Matthews in a beaver swamp.