Lockdown life…Mammal Society-style
Since we wrote our last blog for CJS back in March it would be safe to say that life has changed for everyone. Our small team have been working from home since lockdown started and any research/surveys that couldn’t be undertaken during daily exercise ground to a halt. Whilst signs and sightings of mammals could always be recorded using the very portable Mammal Mapper app, anything more complex or off the beaten track had to be put on hold.*
So, what have we been up to for the last few months? Below is a snapshot of some of the activities keeping our somewhat outdoorsy team busy at home.
One of the positive things to come out of lockdown is more time to focus on a great deal of proofreading, including updates on a couple of smaller guidebooks and a European Mammal book but mostly for the new Mammal Society/Natural Resource Wales publication The State of Mammals in Wales.
The State of Mammals in Wales
The status of the 49 mammal species found in Wales was last comprehensively assessed in 1995. Commissioned by Natural Resources Wales and drawing on our 2018 Review of the Conservation and Population Status of British Mammals, The State of Mammals in Wales summarises our current knowledge, reporting population sizes, geographical ranges, trends and, for native species, their Regional Red List status according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards. We’ll be updating readers on Welsh success stories, such as polecats, pine marten, red squirrels and lesser horseshoe bats, as well as those species which may not be faring quite as well, including: water voles; stoats; and, rabbits.
The report is due for publication in late June. We’ll publish details of how to get hold of a copy on our website soon so watch out for details! For a full list of our other publications visit the NHBS website.
When their time isn’t being taken up with contributing to and editing recent Mammal Society publications the Mammal Atlas and Mammals in Wales, Mammal Society Science Officer, Frazer Coomber and verifier and trainer, Derek Crawley, have been working with expert volunteers to verify records which have been sent in from all over Britain. Our verifiers play a vital part in ensuring that the records we receive are correctly identified. The beauty of being a verifier, particularly during lockdown, is that you can do it at home and in your own time. Can you spare some time to help us? If you work in the field of mammal conservation, are someone who has carried out lots of surveys and can tell the difference between a common shrew and a pygmy shrew, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about being a verifier here.
Mammal Experts Q&A
Back in April we asked supporters to send in their questions for our first Mammal Experts Q&A session. The theme was Urban and Garden mammals and our knowledgeable panel of four answered questions on foxes, badgers, stoats and weasels and more. The session was hosted on Zoom by our patron, the talented Zeb Soanes.
Our next session will take place at the end of June and, to celebrate the imminent launch of our new publication, we’d like you to send us any questions you may have about mammals in Wales. We’re expecting questions on polecats, pine marten and red squirrels and we would love to hear from you. Send your questions into email@example.com. In the meantime, why not take a look at our Urban and Garden mammals Q&A video below?
When she’s not busy baking cakes (see below), our Information Officer, Charlie has been working on Ecobat. Ecobat is a free web-based tool that allows users to compare their bat data with data from across the UK in order to give context to their own recordings. Currently, it focuses on acoustic data, where detectors pick up ‘bat passes’ by their echolocations - used to determine the genus or species. Users upload a .csv file of recorded bat passes and Ecobat compares this to its reference database to calculate whether your number of bat passes for a particular species was a low, moderate high, etc. number of bats. Charlie is working on a new app which will allow users to do the same but for data on the number of bats found within a roost. This will compare the total count of bats recorded in a roost to roosts of the same species in the reference database and calculate through the use of percentiles whether a user’s roost has a low, moderate, high etc. number of bats for that species. This helps users to understand the importance of a given roost. The app is very close to completion and hopefully will be up on the Ecobat website and ready to use soon!
One of the more fun things we’ve been involved with is the 2.6 Challenge. As many of you will already know, this initiative was set up by the organisers of the London Marathon to help charities which have been unable to fundraise during lockdown.
Our fundraising activities have included cake baking (Charlie), running (Press Officer Jo) and (naturally) mammal spotting. The cakes were demolished pretty quickly but the mammal spotting part is continuing as three intrepid mammologists have set themselves slightly different challenges involving the number 26. Please check out Pam, Derek and Merryl’s updates, blogs and posts on social media and donate if you can.
In the pipeline
Once it is safe to do so we’ll be resuming research projects including plastic ingestion by small mammals. We’re also starting preparations for a nationwide Harvest Mouse Project and National Mammal Week in October. We’re happy to announce that the postponed 2020 Spring Conference will take place on 16-18 April 2021 at Robinson College, University of Cambridge. Please keep an eye on our website for more details.
*Article written at the end of May 2020. For the most up to date advice on the position regarding undertaking wildlife surveys please visit the relevant country agencies for your region.
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