Tag Archives: biological records

17 
Feb

Ecological Mapping Courses 2015

I’ll be running three training courses in ecological mapping this spring:

– QGIS for Ecologists and Conservation Practitioners

– Mapping Biological Records with QGIS

– Introduction to Habitat Mapping

 

QGIS for Ecologists and Conservation Practitioners

Date: Thursday 23rd – Friday 24th April 2015

Venue: Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Cost: approx. €243 for CIEEM members, €486 for non-members*

Registration: http://www.cieem.net/events/800/qgis-for-ecologists-and-conservation-practitioners

QGIS screengrabThis is the third year for this course, which I have successfully run for the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management. The course is for ecologists and environmental managers who wish to learn how to incorporate GIS into their working practices, but who lack the means or institutional support to avail of the more expensive, commercial GIS packages.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to :

– Outline basic GIS concepts

– Display and query ecological data using QGIS

– Create (digitise) species records and habitat mapping data

– Prepare maps for inclusion in reports

The course will begin with an introduction to GIS. Basic GIS concepts will be explained and explored.   The open source GIS that will be used will be QGIS, powerful, open source, fully functional GIS software. The QGIS interface will be introduced and participants will learn how to open, explore and query data layers. Creating ecological data layers with QGIS will be covered, including point records of species and habitat mapping. Attribute table creation and management will also be covered. Easily available environmental data sources will be explored (e.g. open source base mapping and aerial photos, Natura 2000 site boundaries, river basins, soils & geology). Best practice in GIS data creation will be emphasised, including metadata. How to prepare maps for presentation in reports using QGIS will be introduced.

This course covers mapping habitat (or other) polygons, lines and points, as well as creating maps and other tasks. The National Biodiversity Data Centre course below focuses on mapping species point records. This course is a two-day course and will therefore cover more material than the National Biodiversity Data Centre course. If your main interest is using QGIS for a wide range of ecological mapping tasks, this course is for you.

* Course rates are payable in pounds sterling £180 members / £360 non-members. Part of the course fee is donated to the QGIS Project.

 Mapping Biological Records with QGIS

Date: Wednesday 4th March 2015

Venue: National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford

Cost: €50*

Registration: http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/events/mapping-biological-records-with-qgis-advanced/

The tiny liverwort Cladopodiella fluitans dwarfed by mighty Sphagnum mosses

This course is for biological recorders, including both amateur and professional ecologists, who want to learn to use QGIS as a tool to assist in biological recording.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to :

– Explain what GIS is and describe what makes up a typical GIS

– Use the QGIS interface to explore spatial data

– Create a GIS layer from a species record spreadsheet

– Find and use freely available environmental data and maps

– Explore species distributions using hectad (10km square) grids

QGIS is powerful, open source, fully functional GIS software. It can be very useful in managing, exploring and displaying biological records. Workshop participants will be introduced to QGIS and how it can be used to perform some typical tasks, such as mapping biological records and exploring species distributions in conjunction with other environmental data. No previous experience of GIS is necessary.

This focuses on mapping species point records, whereas the CIEEM course covers mapping habitat (or other) polygons, lines and points. This course is a one-day course and will therefore cover less material than the CIEEM course. If your main interest is mapping species records and exploring them in the context of other environmental data, this course is for you.

* Part of the course fee is donated to the QGIS Project.

 Introduction to Habitat Mapping

Date: Wednesday 11th March 2015

Venue: National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford

Cost: €50

Registration:  http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/events/introduction-to-habitat-mapping/

Best Practice GuidanceThis course is for early-career, graduate and student ecologists who want to learn to survey and map habitats in the field.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to :

– Compare and contrast the main habitat classification systems used in Ireland

– Describe how to plan a habitat survey in light of the project objectives

– Evaluate different desktop sources of habitat data

– Demonstrate how to survey and map habitats in the field

– Identify the limitations of habitat survey and outline possible next steps

A habitat survey is a fundamental method for gathering data about the ecology of a site. The objective of a habitat survey is to produce a habitat map – a clear spatial record of what habitats are present in a site and where they are. The workshop will provide an introduction on how to carry out the desk-based and field-based components of a habitat survey. It will be based on the Heritage Council’s Best Practice Guidance for Habitat Survey and Mapping. This course is GIS and computer-free.

Readmore..

Published Date: 17th February 2015
Category: General
Tags: , ,


 

28 
May

Extinct Moss Re-Found in Raised Bog

Waved fork-moss (Dicranum undulatum)

Waved fork-moss (Dicranum undulatum)

I’m delighted to announce that during a recent trip to explore Clara Bog, I discovered a small population of waved fork-moss (Dicranum undulatum), a plant up until then thought to be extinct in Ireland.  It was previously known from only four other raised bogs in Offaly.  Last seen in Ireland in 1960, its known sites have been seriously damaged by peat harvesting.  The sites and other raised bogs in Offaly that were in reasonable condition were searched fruitlessly for the plant over 2005-2009.  Because the only known populations could not be found again and because of the damage caused to raised bogs in the area due to turf cutting, waved fork-moss was judged to be extinct in Ireland in the recent book on the Rare and Threatened Bryophytes of Ireland.

Clara Bog

Clara Bog

Elsewhere in Europe, waved fork-moss is a plant with a northern distribution found in bogs, poor fens and peatland pine forests.  Like Ireland, it is rare throughout most of Europe, except for Scandinavia, and is declining as a result of peat cutting, drainage and afforestation.  In Britain, it also mainly grows in intact raised bogs, where it is considered Vulnerable to extinction.  Waved fork-moss’s “reinstatement” in Ireland is very good news for nature conservation in Europe as well as Ireland.

The fact that waved fork-moss has been re-found gives us a second chance to conserve a species we thought was extinct.  Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.  The fact that it’s in Clara Bog makes the job of conservation a little easier, as the bog is a state-owned Nature Reserve and is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  It may be that the work blocking drains and rewetting the bog that has already happened there is responsible for the survival of waved-fork moss.

Remnant ribbon of raised bog cutaway from both sides

Remnant ribbon of raised bog cutaway from both sides

This little plant is a perfect example of the biodiversity that can be lost if we fail to conserve and restore our raised bogs.  Waved fork-moss and other bog specialists can only survive on wet, intact bogs, which are rapidly vanishing from the Irish landscape.  The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan and the National Peatlands Strategy, soon to be finalised, may give us a second chance to conserve our raised bog resource.  But they will only be up to the task if they are robust and properly implemented.  We won’t have many more chances.

 

Special thanks to Gordon Rothero of the British Bryological Society for confirming my identification.

 

UPDATE:  The Irish Times ran an article on this on 19 June, which you can see at this link.

UPDATE 2:  And the Tullamore Tribune ran a nice article with some pictures.  There was a nice closeup of the plant in the print version.

Readmore..

Published Date: 28th May 2014
Category: General
Tags: , , , ,


 

02 
Apr

Intro to Ecological Mapping with Open Source GIS

As of today, there are still 3 spaces left in my Introduction to Ecological Mapping with Open Source GIS Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management training course.  You can sign up via the CIEEM website.

QGIS screengrabThe course will begin with an introduction to GIS.  Basic GIS concepts will be explained and explored.   Environmental data sources that are easily available will be introduced (e.g. GoogleEarth & Bing aerial photography, Natura 2000 site boundary layers, other National Parks and Wildlife Service datasets, river basins, bedrock geology).  The open source GIS that will be used will be QGIS 2.2.  The QGIS interface will be introduced and participants will learn how to open, explore and query data layers.  Creating ecological data layers with QGIS will be covered, including point records of species and habitat mapping.  Attribute table creation and management will also be covered.  Best practice in GIS data creation will be emphasised, including metadata.  How to prepare maps for presentation in reports using QGIS will be introduced.

QGIQGISS is open source.  You can support the QGIS project here.  Part of the fees from this training course will be used to make a donation to the QGIS project to ensure the future of this quality resource for ecologists and everyone else who uses spatial data.

Readmore..

Published Date: 2nd April 2014
Category: General
Tags: , ,


 

04 
Oct

The Importance of Biological Records

Clara Bog

I will be running a small beginner’s bryophyte (mosses and liverworts) identification workshop tomorrow for the Clara Bog Visitors’ Centre.  It filled up rapidly and there are no places left.  Disappointing for those of you who aren’t able to attend, but a sign of great enthusiasm out there for getting to know bryos.  The workshop will focus on learning some of the mosses and liverworts of Clara Bog, which are the real ecosystem engineers of the wetland.  Maybe someday I’ll write about them in a little more detail, but not yet.

Sphagnum cuspidatum (green) & S. magellanicum (winey red)

Sphagnum cuspidatum (green) & S. magellanicum (red)

I’m a member of the British Bryological Society (BBS) “which exists to promote a wider interest in all aspects of bryology”.  I’m also the regional recorder for County Offaly.  That means it’s my responsibility to collect and manage biological records of mosses and liverworts from the county and more generally help the study and conservation of bryophytes.  I decided to take on the role of regional recorder for Offaly for a few reasons.  One is that trying to get to know the mosses and liverworts of a whole county is a great incentive for getting out there and learning more.  Another reason is that Offaly’s bryophytes are very poorly recorded.  That means that finding firsts, like first county records of a species, is pretty easy.  So I don’t have to work too hard for the lovely warm feeling of accomplishment!

The tiny liverwort Cladopodiella fluitans dwarfed by mighty Sphagnum mosses

The tiny liverwort Cladopodiella fluitans dwarfed by mighty Sphagnum mosses

One of the under-recorded parts of Offaly is actually Clara Bog.  When I started as regional recorder, the BBS only held records of seven mosses and liverworts from there!  This low number of biological records is incredible, because the high conservation value of the bog has long been known.  Ecologists have been visiting the bog for years, and it’s been the site of intensive research by Irish and Dutch ecologists and hydrogeologists since the late 1980s.  Pages and pages of research reports based on Clara Bog have been produced, and these have resulted in only seven records properly collated in the BBS database.  And because the National Biodiversity Data Centre mainly relies on the BBS for its biological records of bryophytes, that means there are only seven records for Clara Bog held by the national clearinghouse for information on biodiversity.  Obviously, lots of people have neglected to hand in records of bryophytes (and probably lots of other organisms) to the relevant recording societies and the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

Biological Records

This is a huge problem.  Without biological records telling us what species and habitats are present where, it makes it very difficult to make informed decisions.  Good biological records are important for telling us what species are rare or declining and thus might need measures put in place to conserve them.  Conversely, some species might be thought of as being rare and in need of special protection, when in fact they are simply under-recorded.  Good biological records are also important for telling us what sites are of special conservation importance.  We need this sort of information to prioritise conservation activities, even more so when the money is tight.  If you were to decide whether Clara Bog was worth preserving based solely on bryophyte records, you might look at the seven mosses and liverworts listed as being present in the site and decide no, there’s nothing special there*.  And you would be very wrong.

Sphagnum palustre in bog woodland

Sphagnum palustre in bog woodland

For those ecologists out there reading this, submit your records!  All of us, including me, are guilty of sitting on biological records we’ve collected in the course of our work or recreation.  Submit them to the National Biodiversity Data Centre or to the relevant recording society.  For those of you reading this who hire ecologists, allow and encourage them to submit records from your development sites.  The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management  encourages members to share biological records in its Code of Professional Conduct, as long as commercially sensitive and personal data are safeguarded.

Finally, if you’d really like to help do your bit for the mosses of Offaly, I’ll be leading another beginner’s day out on Saturday 12th October in Charleville Wood for the Offaly Naturalists’ Field Club and BBS Irish Regional Group.

 

 

 

 

 

* Well, no.  Really you wouldn’t, because one of the records is for Tetraplodon angustatus, narrow cruet-moss, a legally protected species only found in one place in Ireland: Clara Bog.  But you see what I mean, right?

Readmore..

Published Date: 4th October 2013
Category: General
Tags: , , ,