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A round up of the top countryside, conservation, wildlife and forestry stories as chosen by the CJS Team.


Research collaboration to assess impact of flooding on people and communities - James Hutton Institute

Flooding in Ballater (image: ©James Hutton Institute)Flooding in Ballater (image: ©James Hutton Institute)

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Aberdeen are collaborating on a three-year research project to understand the long-term impacts of flooding on people and communities, one year on from the December 2015 and January 2016 flood events in Scotland.

Dr Mags Currie, a social scientist based at the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, said the research will help provide information about what types of support and advice people and communities need at different stages of a long-term recovery process.

“We hope the project will be able to advance understanding of the long-term impacts of flooding, contribute to better flood risk management and make suggestions as to how personal and community resilience may be supported and enhanced in future flood events,” Dr Currie said.

Ballater in Aberdeenshire has been selected as a case study area, and the research will be conducted through a survey of individuals and businesses, a subsequent media analysis (including social media) of reactions and responses to the flooding, and yearly interviews with individuals and businesses to track the impacts of the flooding.


Internet data could boost conservation – Exeter University

Businesses routinely use internet data to learn about customers and increase profits – and similar techniques could be used to boost conservation.

New research has tracked public interest in conservation over time, and found sudden spikes in interest linked to media coverage and seasonal events.

Peaks in interest in certain animals – such as when a species appears on TV programmes like the BBC’s Planet Earth II – could be harnessed to aid protection efforts, the researchers say.

“Using these methods is relatively cheap and they produce huge sample sizes to tell us what people think about conservation,” said lead author Andrea Soriano-Redondo, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall. “Up until now people have relied on surveys, which are extremely useful but very expensive, take a long time and usually have relatively small sample sizes.”

Ms Soriano-Redondo, a PhD student, noted spikes in interest in cranes after a media release in August 2015 that detailed the first successful breeding of Eurasian cranes in south-west England in over 400 years – but she said the level of interest went “back to the baseline” soon afterwards. The same happened for sloths and iguanas after they appeared on Planet Earth II. “The challenge is to make the most of these surges and keep that going after the initial peak,” she said. “At the moment the power of this public interest isn’t being used to its full potential to promote conservation.”


Access the paper: Andrea Soriano-Redondo, Stuart Bearhop, Leigh Lock, Stephen C. Votier, Geoff M. Hilton, Internet-based monitoring of public perception of conservation, Biological Conservation, Available online 13 December 2016, ISSN 0006-3207, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.031.


Ulster Wildlife expresses concern over badger cull plans – Ulster Wildlife Trust 

Badger cubs (image: © E Neep, Ulster Wildlife Trust)Badger cubs (image: © E Neep, Ulster Wildlife Trust)

Ulster Wildlife has expressed concern about the strategy on bovine TB (bTB) eradication for Northern Ireland which was launched last week by the TB Strategic Partnership Group. This could see large numbers of healthy badgers culled within ten intervention areas across Northern Ireland.

Jennifer Fulton, Chief Executive with Ulster Wildlife said: “Bovine tuberculosis is a complex and costly disease and we are very conscious of the hardship that it causes the farming community and the need to find the right mechanisms to control it. Although there is much to commend in the new long-term strategy, we are disappointed and concerned that the current test, vaccinate and removal methodology may not be fully rolled out in the intervention areas, and that a large number of healthy badgers may be culled unnecessarily. While we welcome the vaccination of badgers around the target areas, which will help to provide a degree of protection to both adults and their young, the vast majority of science to date suggests that culling causes perturbation – dispersal of badgers - which could in turn further aggravate the spread of the disease.”We will be considering the strategy in depth during the coming weeks and seeking the views of key scientists working in this field. We have also requested a meeting with the TB Strategic Partnership Group to highlight public concerns and to obtain further details about the proposed wildlife intervention approach.”


Government sets out next steps to ban microbeads - Defra

Government announces consultation to ban microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.

A consultation to ban microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products has launched today, aiming to change legislation by October 2017 and stop billions of tiny pieces of plastic ending up in our seas each year.

Microbeads – added as exfoliators to face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels – can cause serious harm to marine life, with one shower sending up to 100,000 beads down our drains.

Many companies have already taken steps to voluntarily phase them out, and Christmas shoppers on the hunt for last-minute bargains are being urged to look for products that use natural alternatives.


Young people with learning disabilities making wild discoveries – London Wildlife Trust

Following in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough and Planet Earth II, young people with learning disabilities will be filming London’s wildlife as part of an innovative, new project in Richmond upon Thames, made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Thanks to National Lottery players, forty young people with learning disabilities are being given a chance to develop skills and gain confidence by working with experts from London Wildlife Trust to explore the wildlife of a local nature reserve, Crane Park Island in Twickenham.

The Trust is teaming up with Richmond upon Thames College Support Learning, with support from HLF, to offer an opportunity for young Participants with Richmond upon Thames College Support Leanring (London Wildlife Trust)people aged between 16 and 25 years to play an active role in investigating wildlife on their doorstep, focusing in particular on river habitats at the award-winning nature reserve.

Participants with Richmond upon Thames College Support Leanring (London Wildlife Trust)

The 'Young Visions' project has been devised and is being led by the young people themselves – and will be the first fully youth-led project the Trust has delivered.

Low self-esteem and a lack of opportunities are often problems for young people with learning disabilities, preventing them exploring and enjoying nature in their local area. Through Young Visions the Trust aims to offer new opportunities and provide a sense of ownership of local green spaces, creating a welcoming environment for the young people who take part in the project.

Why not also have a look at the article from Surrey Choices in CJS Focus on Overcoming Barriers to see how people with learning disabilities help to carry out practical tasks in the Surrey Countryside. Read it here


Study explores vets’ attitudes towards treatment of wild animals – University of Plymouth

Eighty-five per cent of vets said they had treated wildlife in the past year and most agreed they should have a role to play in wild animal welfare

Veterinary practices could be treating increasing numbers of wildlife casualties while facing significant restrictions in terms of cost, knowledge and facilities, according to new research.

A study by the University of Plymouth – and published in Veterinary Record – examined the time veterinary nurses and surgeons spend treating wild animals.

It also asked vets about the precise role they felt they should assume in an area where no government or non-governmental organisation currently has sole responsibility.

The study was conducted by undergraduate student Emily Barnes and Dr Mark Farnworth, both from the University’s School of Biological Sciences.

It focused on questionnaire responses received from almost 170 practices registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Of those, 85 per cent said they had treated wildlife in the past year and most (71 per cent) agreed that veterinary practices should have a role to play in wild animal welfare.

However, while previous research has estimated veterinary practices deal with between 30,000 and 70,000 cases of wildlife injuries each year, this study suggested that with an average of around 30 cases per practice, the current figure could be as high as 170,000.

The most common creatures brought in were garden birds (31.9%) and hedgehogs (23.9%), while the most frequent suspected causes were injuries from predators (55.1%) and collisions (47.1%).


Scientific papers

O’Hanlon, N.J. & Lambert, M.S. Investigating brown rat Rattus norvegicus egg predation using experimental nests and camera traps. Eur J Wildl Res (2017) 63: 18. doi:10.1007/s10344-016-1063-4


Mcmahon, B. J., Purvis, G., Sheridan, H., Siriwardena, G. M. and Parnell, A. C. (2016), A novel method for quantifying overdispersion in count data and its application to farmland birds. Ibis. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/ibi.12450


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