2017, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Uncategorized

Best geography & ecology resources

By Rowena

Over time, I’ve been collating a list of websites that are some of the best (or coolest) resources for geography, biology and ecology.

Geography

Datashine  -The 2011 census, geolocated and mapped for multiple different census datasets.

NullSchool  -Mapping of the world, showing meteorological flows and ocean currents.

Ventusky  -Similar to NullSchool, although on a flat projection. Generally slightly easier to use than NullSchool.

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Windy.com  -Weather patterns emerging over the next 5 days, with forecasts and animated maps.

CO2 levels  -Looks at atmospheric carbon dioxide and the change over the past ~260 years.

Fairness on the 83  -Fascinating human geography on inequality in Sheffield, and the changes in life expectancy over the route of the 83 Bus.

GeoLibrary  -365 days of geographical books, covering all topics geographical!

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London Tree Map  -London’s trees mapped, by species.

Made with Padlet

Ecology & Environmental Science

ISpot  -Citizen science project to identify and map species.

Hunt the Moth -A fun game where you have to find the camouflaged moth as fast as possible.

Cloud Atlas -An international atlas of different types of cloud, by the World Meteorological Organization. Used to describe and define different types of cloud.

And finally, data presentation…

Episode #58: The Financial Times Graphic Desk - Policy Viz

FT Interactive  -Visual vocabulary, but interactive!

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Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Invasives Week

By Rowena

This week is invasive species week on Twitter, and I’ve been watching a lot of really interesting stuff come up on my feed all week. It’s been organised by the NNSS (Non-native Species Secretariat) and DEFRA to try and raise awareness of invasive species, and get people involved in recording schemes. Each day has a different theme:

Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!
Tuesday – Biosecurity
Wednesday – Identification and recording
Thursday – Local Action Groups
Friday – Other projects

My favourite resource I’ve found so far this week (although it’s only Tuesday that I’m writing this…) has been the Journal of Ecology’s virtual issue, with over 20 different papers about different invasive species and up-to-date research in the area. I’ve downloaded them to my laptop, but haven’t yet had the time to read them… Soon.

On the NNSS website, there’s loads of free training on biosecurity and identification of non-native species. To be able to tackle invasive species effectively, it’s important to have the distribution and evidence of where species are found- NNSS have developed a set of apps to record different invasive species, and help identify individuals. I’m not familiar with all of them, although Juniper Hall do record a lot of our species on iRecord. We also have a fantastic species list from the University of Cambridge who visit each year, and record literally everything they see. I’m also on a mission to get my Birdtrack back up to date, as I’ve been birding a lot recently but actually have no count of what I’ve been seeing!

Introducing BirdTrack Home | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

Wednesday is identification and recording day- So a quick list of invasives I’ve seen at our field sites before…

invasives

Himalayan balsam, Signal crayfish, Rhododendron, Ringed parakeet, Harlequin ladybird

I’ve not got time to update this again after today (which is still Wednesday, although I scheduled this for the end of the week) but it’s a cool initiative that seems to be educating a lot of people. I’ve definitely found a lot of interesting stuff I’m planning to read in the future this week!

Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall

BENHS Conference & Saproxylic inverts

By Rowena

At the weekend I travelled over to Oxford to go to the annual BENHS (British Entomological and Natural History Society) AGM. It was, in a few words, pretty great. A day full of lectures about various British insects, including art, history and a tour around the stacks of the Oxford Natural History Museum afterwards to see some of the collections.

Natural history

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One of the best days out I’ve had in ages- and you don’t actually have to be a member to attend the day either, which is great. The next couple of blog posts are going to be about what I learnt that are also pretty relevant to what we do over here at Juniper Hall.

Woodland ecosystems and saproxylic species

Saproxylic species are organisms that live in deadwood. The BENHS talk was focussed on woodlands, so I am going to as well- most of the research on saproxylic species focuses on woodlands. Saproxylic species make up 7% of all British fauna– there are over 800 beetles, 730 flies,  300 hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps), and 50 moth species present within deadwood. Unfortunately many of these species are threatened by the need for “tidy woodlands“- the removal of deadwood. Over-management of parks and woodland gardens has a lot of fallen deadwood removed, to try and keep an area tidy. Standing deadwood and timber branches are also regularly removed, as it’s thought to be dangerous or a potential haven for diseases and pests.

Types of deadwood (Source: TVC)

At European scale, 11% of saproxylic beetles are threatened. It might be that part of the problem is due to woodland management, where modern harvesting practice does not allow trees to fully mature, cropping them before they can naturally produce deadwood. In areas that have been previously coppiced or pollarded, deadwood invertebrates are likely to persist in tree hollows, although the loss of this traditional woodland management causes saproxylic invertebrate numbers to decrease.

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Please help me! (Source: Greg Humphries)

So what’s better? To manage a woodland traditionally, using coppicing and pollarding, or to leave woodlands completely alone and prevent “tidying” of woodland, allowing a deadwood environment to emerge on the ground? Certainly it seems that either method is better than modern techniques of harvesting an area for trees, as this causes the total removal of material even before deadwood can form. It has been noticed that coppiced areas can produce special microclimates for deadwood fauna, however if an area is too-well managed, coppice reverts to being of little importance for deadwood conservation.

TM1497 : Lower Wood Nature Reserve - coppiced trees

To coppice, or not to coppice? (Image credit: geograph.org.uk)

Perhaps it’s too difficult to draw a conclusion on the best way to manage woodland for deadwood invertebrates when there’s little currently being researched on a large scale- more important, it seems, is to just try and create deadwood habitats to start off with, and worry about woodland management when our saproxylites are a little bit more stable in the future.

Image result for deadwood invertebrates

A happy home for many invertebrates (Source: Buglife.com)

2016, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Uncategorized

Conference 2016

By Rowena

I’ve not written a blog post for a while, because it’s just been incredibly busy! But I’ve got a little bit of time today. 2016 was a pretty intense year, but finished up by one of the most exciting events of the year- FSC Conference, this year at our very own Juniper Hall.

FSC conference is held every year for staff, to share ideas, meet people from other centres and have a bit of fun to celebrate the end of a successful year. I’ve never been to staff conference before- last year I was teaching!- so it was quite something to see it go from start to finish. First thing to arrive was the tent, and all the decorations had to be put up on monday…

Let there be lights

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The decorations were handmade, those on the trees by our amazing groundskeeper Sarah.

#christmas decorations

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When tuesday afternoon rolled around, suddenly JH was teeming with people as staff from other centres flooded in. We happily met friends from Malham Tarn, Rhyd-y-creuau, Flatford Mill, Slapton… And the activities began!

The main event was day 2, when we all dispersed into groups to visit different places in London and the surrounding area to look at sustainability. One of the FSC’s core values is sustainability, so we wanted to look at companies who were doing this really well and how we could improve. Groups scattered to London Zoo, the Natural History Museum, London Wetland Centre, Marks & Spencer, the Crystal, Bushy Park and Leatherhead Youth Project. I went to Leatherhead Youth Project, as I’ve worked with them before, and we met staff there to discuss their values and how they share them. Their passion to make a difference to young peoples’ lives was inspiring, and we took a lot away to share back with the rest of conference the next day.

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The evening of day 2 we had a barn dance in the tent out on the front lawn- the theme was “dress to impress”, and some of the costumes sure were impressive… and so was the dancing!

Spiral dance

Thursday was a quick morning roundin up our findings and what we wanted to take forward into the new year, then it was suddenly all over as we were waving goodbye to our new friends from all over the country. Till next year!

2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.

2016, Biology, FSC, Uncategorized

30 Days Wild & other exciting things

By Rowena

June is fast approaching (somehow!) and is the month for biodiversity, it seems. This morning I’ve been doing a little bit of research to promote three different fantastic biodiversity projects in June, and made ourselves a board with loads of information and resources for the coming month.

30 Days Wild- All of June

Set up last year, 30 Days Wild is an awesome drive by the Wildlife Trusts to get more people outside and interacting with nature. Individuals can sign up here for a pack, which contains things like a calendar for the month, stickers, a badge, and some ideas of what to do! There are loads of free activities that the Wildlife Trusts are putting on too, which is pretty cool as it means people really have the opportunity to get out and explore.

They also have an app, which you can download for some quick ideas to get outside in nature. I’ve not downloaded it yet (too many other recording apps!) but from a quick glance, it looks pretty fun.

 

National Insect Week- 20-26th June

National Insect Week is a bi-annual event run by the Royal Entomological Society promoting insects. There are tons of events occurring during the week all over the country, which is pretty cool really, as insects are sometimes undervalued- especially the ones that aren’t “pretty”.

The section of NIW’s website I like the best is the Learning Resources area (I guess that says a lot…)- there are loads of activities and things to do; worksheets and things to read, lesson plans, podcasts and websites. Fantastic!

 

Great British Bee Count- 19th May- 30th June

Run by the Friends of the Earth, the Great British Bee Count mostly revolves around an app used to count bees. When I first downloaded it only 10 bees had been counted- now it’s over 18,000! When you spot a bee, you can record it on the app. There are handy pictures too, which makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. It even has a few non-bees that look like bees (like wasps and bee-flies).

Record all of the bees

You can also do a timed count, watching a 50cm area for 1 minute and recording all the bees that visit the flowers you’re watching.

Putting together all these cool biodiversity projects into one board was a bit of a challenge, and I might have gotten overexcited… But there’s so much to look forward to in June!

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So much biodiversity!