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At Baker Consultants, our terrestrial ecologists are fully licensed and experienced great crested newt surveyors and have carried out accredited training in environmental DNA (eDNA) field sampling, led by Dr Jeremy Biggs, Director of the Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT).

This innovative and recently developed survey method is used to detect microscopic fragments of DNA biomarkers belonging to great crested newts, which persist in waterbodies for between 1 and 3 weeks, depending on environmental conditions. This method can be used to determine species occupancy in ponds (i.e. presence/absence) and has the potential advantage of increasing survey efficiency from a financial, time and labour intensity perspective.

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

eDNA service at Baker Consultants

The fact that eDNA persists in waterbodies (excluding sedimentary deposits) for a relatively short period of time, means that collected samples should contain the DNA fragments of great crested newts that were recently present within the waterbody. This technique has been supported by Natural England and where negative results are returned following analysis, the requirement for further surveying using the standard bottle trapping, egg search and torchlight methods can be omitted; thus potentially saving the client time and money. Furthermore, a recent study published by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and conducted by the FHT, showed that eDNA sampling used to determine the presence of great crested newts had an accuracy level of 99.3%, compared to only 76% via the standard bottle trapping technique.

However, to support a licence application for development, Natural England will only accept the results of this new sampling technique if an appropriately trained and experienced great crested newt surveyor collects the samples. Additionally, in order to be accepted, these samples must be collected between 15th April and 30th June.

Baker Consultants are able to provide this eDNA service on request. Further details on prices and availability will be released in the near future. If you have any queries regarding this service, please contact Jake Robinson.

Rich has written an article in the latest edition of the Wind Energy Network magazine.

The article explains the importance of preliminary assessments and scientifically robust surveys in particular for bats and they way they use habitats.

Please read the link for the full article:

BatFeature

Our bioacoustic team has recently made a significant breakthrough in the semi-automated processing of full spectrum data, allowing a more cost-effective way of managing bat call data analysis. The success of this technique on over 1000s of hours of data, has led to us being commissioned to process data for one of the UK’s largest major infrastructure projects.

Read more

Wildlife Acoustics launches the new Echo Meter EM3+

If you are familiar with the EM3, the new EM3+ keeps all of the powerful features of the original while improving the recording and monitoring quality, “fit and finish” and ergonomics of the recorder. Read more

The March issue of IEEM’s In Practice carries Andrew’s article on bioacoustics’ coming of age. It discusses the advances in bioacoustic survey technology in the terrestrial and marine environments. Rather than advocating that technology can replace the skilled professional ecologist, it suggests that the collecting of more detailed and robust data can allow the consultant to do a better job for the client and attain a more satisfactory development outcome. Read more

Course dates are now confirmed for SM2BAT training with Paul Howden-Leach. This is the only SM2 training course approved by Wildlife Acoustics.

Tuesday 27th November 2012
Tuesday 29th January 2013
Tuesday 12th March 2013

Venue: Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

The full day training session will provide a users introduction to the SM2 unit itself and will focus on the following elements:-

  • Getting to know the unit
  • Basic setup for deployment
  • Data download
  • Dealing with the data
  • Advanced setup techniques

The course will also include an overview of the EM3 hand held unit.

Applicants will be required to bring an SM2BAT unit and a laptop. Full details of required equipment will be set out in the joining instructions.

The course fee is £225 + VAT and includes refreshments and a buffet lunch.

To book your place please contact sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk or download the booking form below. Group rates and bespoke courses are available.

Back in 2007, the Bat Conservation Trust published the first edition of ‘Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines’, with the aim to provide some clarity on the different types of survey and survey effort needed to provide appropriate information for ecological assessments. Since 2007, new developments in equipment, methods, and legislation have meant that revision of the bat survey guidelines is needed.

The practical implementation of bat conservation has evolved and expanded, with a greater number of individuals undertaking professional bat work.

The second edition of the guidelines has just been released. This updated version provides improved guidance for those commissioning, undertaking or reviewing bat surveys throughout the UK. It is intended to enhance the standard and consistency of bat surveys and reports and ultimately lead to greater understanding of bats and improvements in their protection and conservation.

The BCT has set out to strengthen the focus on professional bat work within the guidance, both for those undertaking the work, and to include more details for planners assessing surveys. This edition also takes account of changes in technology, and the importance of selecting the right equipment to meet the survey aims and being clear about the limitations of different techniques.

As with any generic guidance though, the interpretation and implementation of case-by-case best practice is still very much down to trained and experienced ecologists, such as those at Baker Consultants. The BCT makes this clear in its introduction, stating that “there is no substitute for knowledge and experience in survey planning, methodology and interpretation of findings, and these guidelines are intended to support these”.

To commission a survey or site assessment, or if you’re an ecologist with too much data to analyse during the busy season give us a call on: 01629 593958

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

SM2 Detector fixed to a tree.

Having become the UK’s acknowledged experts in the use of the Wildlife Acoustics’ SM2 range of full spectrum recorders, Baker Consultants Ltd has been commissioned by the manufacturer to provide field support to their UK users. The aim of the service is to answer any queries that you may have regarding the set up and use of the SM2 and any issues of data handling.

Any hardware issues will be passed directly on to Wildlife Acoustics.

We have set up a dedicated telephone line for the service. The service is free of charge and will be provided by Paul Howden-Leach of Baker Consultants Ltd.

Telephone: 0114 360 9977
Email: sm2@bakerconsultants.co.uk
Skype: sm2fieldsupport

Next SM2BAT training courses are:
Thursday 16th February 2012
Thursday 15th March 2012

To download a booking form click  SM2 Booking Form.

Paul reports on his trip to the Mammal Society Conference in Bangor. He attended talks on Dormice, badger mitigation and brown hares among other creatures and had a great group for his SM2 workshop.

Paul writes:

I was invited to run an SM2 workshop at the Mammal Conference held in Bangor by the British Mammal Society in early November 2011. The event was held in the Bramall building at Bangor University, which contains a small but fantastic natural history museum.

The difficulty with running an event such as this is the need to cater for a wide range of different audiences including interested members of the public who are just getting into natural history, enthusiastic volunteers (whose knowledge on British mammals often swamps many of the professionals), consultants, local authorities and academics. The conference was pitched perfectly invoking discussions within the talks and throughout the breaks and lunch.

The day was kicked off by the president of the Mammal society Dereck Yaldon, whose talk on Brown Hare populations was very interesting, of which one of the main conclusions is, he needs more hare records so please send any records to your local records office or to the Mammal Soc’s National Mammal Atlas. This was followed by a talk on badger mitigation by Penny Lewns and what works and what doesn’t. After lunch Jack Grasse gave a very unique talk on Dormouse surveying(see our dormouse blog piece here), I won’t go into detail as I think most people who attended the conference will agree that if you get a chance to see Jack speak whatever he speaks on you will remember forever. This was followed by a presentation on the Alcathose bat by Kate Williamson from Leeds university.

The mammal society gave a presentation looking at hedgehog survey techniques which required plastic sheeting, powder paint, oil white paper, paperclips, sticky back plastic and hot dog sausages. Very Blue Peter and very effective. I know I have missed other presentations out and of course all of the workshops but needless to say that the Mammal society events are well worth having a look at.

Many thanks to all of the people who organised such a wonderful event.

In a very short period of time the SM2BAT from Wildlife Acoustics has become
recognised as an industry-standard remote bat detector and is widely
used by consultants, universities and researchers.

Superior field equipment that records more calls brings with it the challenge of larger volumes of data to analyse.

Baker Consultants is now able to offer a full data processing service to assist in the analysis of bat survey field recordings. Using our library of bat call ‘recognisers’ our experienced bat ecologists can
provide a cost-effective, independent analysis of SM2 recordings.

Outputs
We will provide a detailed analysis of the data, using Songscope software, and provide the following information from each recording session:

•    A summary spreadsheet of the data including a confirmed species list.
•    A list highlighting calls which are dubious or inadequately recorded.
•    Measured call parameters will be provided for calls of rare species.
•    A date and time-indexed spreadsheet of all identifiable calls.

Benefits
•    Rapid, cost effective analysis using the SM2 native software, Songscope.
•    Full spectrum analysis capturing a greater number of calls.
•    Independent verification avoiding any charge of bias.
•    Data remains confidential and site anonymous.
•    Time and cost savings.

Please contact Carlos Abrahams if you would like more details of this service or email sm2@bakerconsulants.co.uk

WILDLIFE ACOUSTICS ANNOUNCES THE ECHO METER EM3 ULTRASONIC DETECTOR AND RECORDER

At the UK National Bat Conference last week, Wildlife Acoustics
announced a new hand-held bat detector and recorder. As you would expect
there was great excitement in the Baker Consultants office and Paul
couldn’t wait to get his hands on one.

Paul said: “It’s a unique piece of kit, finally we have access to
something that not only captures and records bat calls, but also shows
the calls in real-time as they come in on the screen.”

Here’s an extract from the press release and a link to the Wildlife Acoustics site to learn more. We are expecting products to be widely available sometime in the new year.

“Bringing unparalleled features, ease of use and low cost to the active bat monitoring market the Echo Meter EM3 is easy to hold, lightweight (weighing less than .35 kg), and fully self-contained, requiring no additional hardware to actively monitor and record bats. The EM3 ships with built-in rechargeable batteries plus an SDHC memory card so customers can start monitoring bats upon product arrival.

Users monitor bat calls with headphones or the built-in speaker. Bat passes are recorded while the user simultaneously listens to bat calls in the method of choice: Heterodyne, Frequency Division, or Wildlife Acoustics”s patent pending Real Time Expansion mode.

As the most flexible heterodyne detector on the market, the EM3’s Auto-Het feature automatically tunes the detector based on the echolocation frequency. Users program up to four frequency presents to rapidly tune into a bat call in heterodyne and then fine tune any frequency settings with the easy to use button navigation.

The EM3 also captures voice notes along with the bat passes in the same trigger for easy direct correlation. Users may categorise or tag a bat call in real-time in one of four categories to facilitate post processing.”

Today’s themes were Cumulative effects, Tools and technology, Mitigation and compensation and Future challenges.

Again, a huge amount of interesting and relevant information which will
immediately be put into practice. Our approach to ecology for wind farm
developments is going to get a right good shake up next week! I’m not
going to go through all the good stuff about measuring and adjusting for
impact, and associated stats – that’s not for this forum, I am going to
take a philosophical direction tonight.

Scott Cole from the Centre for Environment and Resource Economics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is an Environmental Economist. His presentation on how to realistically measure the credits and debits of ecology impacts and was exceptionally useful. But one part of his presentation threw up an interesting idea, something to mull over on a long train journey.

He suggested that the application of compensatory measures for wildlife is an issue of human psychology.

First up, I will not assume that you know what “compensation” is. It is a measure that is applied when a negative impact has been identified and after avoidance and mitigation measures have been applied but where there remains an unacceptable residual impact. Makes sense?

Here is an example, say that at a wind farm we know that 300 birds will be killed as a result of flying into moving turbine blades. An avoidance measure could be to identify which turbine is causing the majority of these deaths and take it out of the plan. A mitigation measure might be to paint the remaining turbines so that birds can see them better and fly round. Lets say that these two measures avoid 250 collisions but we are still not happy with the remaining 50 collisions. A compensatory measure could then be applied – for example getting hold of a poor piece of habitat near to our site and making it irresistible to the birds, the plan being that they will become too happy over there to bother with the wind farm any more.

So what’s the problem? Compensation takes time, the habitat has to establish and it will take further time for the birds to move over there even when it is in good condition. So although avoidance and mitigation measures are in place the population will continue to fall at a rate of 50 birds a year. When the birds eventually do move to the compensation site it may take many years to replace the 50 per annum lost during this interim.

Do the birds care about this? No. We don’t ask them. Its people who care about this and a basic thing that all economists and psychologists know is that we do not like to wait for anything and especially not for an identified problem to be fixed. Scott asked, if these birds were white-tailed sea eagles would we rather have 300 tomorrow or 100 in 2035 and 300 in 2050?

Scott argued that compensation is an anthropocentric requirement, the need is not for the birds it is with us. And if it is for us, how much are we prepared to “pay” to have it now?

Something to ponder, eh?

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.