With spring almost done, and summer on the horizon, survey season is upon us. This is the time of year when most environmental studies are carried out. Whether for bats, birds or newts, the flurry of activity that comes with warmer weather is ideal for carrying out surveys.
Wildlife surveys are conducted to identify which species are in an area, how many there are and what condition they are in. Environmental surveys are done to monitor the environmental conditions within an area – the weather, air, water, soil, and climate are all key aspects of how an ecosystem functions. All of this information is then used as a research database, as well as to determine the possible effects of any construction projects on the wildlife and environment.
All surveys are carried out differently depending on what data you are hoping to collect. Some data must be sent to a lab, for example water/soil quality tests: samples are taken from an area and then analysed in a laboratory to determine the chemical content and overall quality. Many studies must be done in the field – e.g. plant, bat, bird, and invertebrate surveys must take place wherever the organisms live to monitor their behaviour and condition. Bat and bird surveys are normally done by listening for their calls but occasionally they are carefully caught, their health checked, and birds sometimes ringed for future reference.
Vegetation surveys are normally conducted using transects or quadrats; these are designated areas (squares or lines) that have been either systematically or randomly selected to survey a representative range of a habitat. Some surveys are time consuming and difficult and some can be done from the comfort of your back garden.
If you would like to try your hand at surveying here are some quick and easy options that you could do at home:
Pitfalls traps are used to see what creepy crawlies are living in an area.
- Dig a hole the depth of a yoghurt pot or jam jar in the ground
- Place the pot or jar into the hole so the rim is level with the soil surface
- Place some soil/grass/stones in the trap so any visitors can hide – but not so much they can climb out!
- Place a cover over the top – lifted up by rocks – to ensure water doesn’t get in
- Any bugs walking along will fall into the trap and when you check the next day you will be able to see what you’ve trapped.
- Be sure to let any bugs you find go once you’ve had a good look
- Set up multiple traps for more chance of finding some special creatures!
The big butterfly count takes place from the 19th July-11th August
- Pick a spot outside on a warm sunny day – good places are parks, gardens, a field or a woodland
- Set a 15-minute timer
- Within the 15 minutes write down all the butterflies/moths you see and how many.
- Submit your results to the big butterfly count 2019 on their website
For more information on how to get involved with surveying and environmental monitoring go to https://www.bnhc.org.uk/bioblitz/ to set up your own BioBlitz and record your findings on a national database!