Ecological survey & analysis

Objective, well-planned research is essential to inform conservation management, decision-making and policy. Applied conservation research forms a significant part of Footprint Ecology’s work. Our staff include highly experienced field ecologists with a range of research interests. Projects have included large fieldwork projects, experimental work, analysis of existing datasets, spatial analysis and literature reviews. We have worked with a range of different universities and other research bodies and maintain an extensive library. We keep abreast of research through peer reviewing papers, attending conferences and events, in-house training and through a wide network of contacts.

Bird disturbance

Bird disturbance

In this key area for which we have a national reputation, we work to resolve conflicts between bird conservation and human recreation and housing pressure.

Survey & monitoring

Survey & monitoring

We survey a variety of taxa plus vegetation communities to inform conservation work and planning - and because we love wildlife and being outdoors!

Data analysis & modelling

Data analysis & modelling

Using a variety of GIS and statistical software and techniques, we reveal the meaning in biological and visitor data - both our own and other people's.

Evidence gathering

Evidence gathering

We undertake data collection, consultation and literature reviews to provide an overview of conservation issues, whether site-specific or national.

Bird disturbance

Bird Disturbance

Bird disturbance is an emotive term with complex meanings. When considering disturbance to birds, many of us focus on birds being flushed and taking flight when people are present, yet birds respond to the presence of people and their pets in a variety of ways. For example, birds can simply avoid a disturbed area entirely.

Assessing the impact

Understanding the full impact of disturbance from recreation and managing recreation to ensure that impacts are minimised, while still allowing visitors to gain fulfilment from visiting, is often challenging for site managers. Achieving a balance whereby access to the countryside is promoted, enhanced and encouraged and the nature conservation interest protected is not always straightforward.

Leaders in the field

Much of Footprint Ecology’s work has focussed on bird disturbance, whether detailed studies of the impact of disturbance, predictions of future impacts, management recommendations, training courses or advisory work on monitoring. We are leaders in the field of bird disturbance – we have run numerous training courses for Natural England staff across England, undertaken strategic reviews of bird disturbance research and been involved in the implementation of access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and more recently enhanced access to England’s coast. Particular examples of our work include:

  • Liley et al. - 2015 - Morecambe Bay Bird Disturbance and Access Manageme
    Bird disturbance fieldwork (breeding birds and wader roosts) in Morecambe Bay for the Morecambe Bay partnership
  • Fearnley et al. - 2011 - The Solent Disturbance _ Mitigation Project. Phase Liley et al. - 2010 - The Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phas Stillman et al. - 2012 - Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phase II
    Bird disturbance fieldwork, visitor fieldwork and modelling (Individual Based Models) on the Solent to consider links between housing, recreation and disturbance
  • Liley Fearnley 2014 - Trends in Nightjar - Woodlark and Dartford Warbler on the Dorset Heaths 1991-2013
    Analysis of distribution of nightjars and other heathland birds in relation to access and housing a series of pieces of work for Natural England and English Nature, undertaken with Bournemouth University and CEH
  • Liley et al. - 2009 - Comparison of the abundance and distribution of bi
    Study of Bird Disturbance in Poole Harbour including comparison of use of different areas by birds during the night and day, for Natural England
  • Liley and Slater - 2007 - Access to the Countryside and Bird Conservation P
    Strategic review of bird disturbance research priorities for Natural England
Survey & monitoring

Survey and monitoring

Footprint Ecology staff have extensive experience in surveying birds, invertebrates, plant and vegetation communities (e.g. NVC). We use a range of specialist fieldwork equipment as appropriate, including night vision equipment, GPS units suitable for a range of applications, automated cameras and data loggers. In many cases we use our own survey work for Data analysis and modelling.

Our own survey and monitoring projects

Some recent examples of survey and monitoring projects undertaken include:

  • Liley et al. - 2012 - The effect of bait collection on waterfowl foragin
    Impacts of bait harvesting (bait digging and bait dragging) on the SPA interest of Poole Harbour for Natural England
  • Lake et al. - 2011 - Seabird Breeding Success Survey, for Ballard Cliff Lake - 2015 - Purbeck Seabird Survey 2015
    Purbeck seabird survey involving annual monitoring for National Trust and partners
  • Panter et al. - 2015 - Southern Damselfy monitoring results from Hampshir
    National survey of Southern Damselflies for Natural England
  • King et al. - 2013 - Solent Vegetation Survey 2013
    Solent vegetation survey a survey of strandline vegetation in the Solent for Natural England
  • Lake and White J. - 2015 - New Forest botanical survey Wootton. Higher Level
    Botanical surveys of mire restoration areas in the New Forest for the Forestry Commission
  • Lake et al. - 2013 - Lower Avon macrophyte survey
    Lower Avon Valley macrophyte survey for Natural England

Helping others to design research projects

We also offer advice on designing or implementing monitoring and research, for example:


  • New Forest ground nesting birds and recreation outlining potential future research for the New Forest National Park Authority
  • Roy et al. - 2014 - The development of a lowland heathland structured
    Heathnet, a project looking at using volunteer survey data with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology for Natural England
Data analysis & modelling

Data analysis and modelling

Analysis of complex data is important to inform policy, planning and conservation management. At Footprint Ecology we work with a range of statistical software and GIS software to look for patterns and test for associations or relationships.

Complex challenges

Often the work relates to difficult issues such as the extent to which bird distributions are related to housing density or the impacts of recreation on bird breeding success. Sometimes we collect the data, such as our work on the factors determining the distribution of wintering divers and grebes in the Falmouth/St. Austell area. In other cases (such as the grazing trials at Hazeley Heath) clients have provided us with data sets they need analysed. Examples include:

  • Liley et al. - 2014 - Distribution and Ecology of wintering grebes and d
    Distribution and feeding ecology of divers and small grebes in the Falmouth/St. Austell area for Natural England
  • Liley et al. - 2010 - Welsh Seasonal Habitat Vulnerability Review
    Assessment of the vulnerability of Welsh habitats and species to recreation impacts a large-scale GIS project for Natural Resources Wales/CCW
  • Clarke, R. T. and Liley - 2013 - Further assessment of the relationship between bui
    Spatial analysis of stone curlew territories in the Brecks in relation to buildings and roads undertaken with Bournemouth University and RSPB for Breckland Council
  • Stillman et al. - 2012 - Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phase II
    Research relating to changes in access and impacts on bird survival (assessed through individual based models) on the Solent for the Solent Forum
  • Lake and Liley - 2012 - Exploration of the shade-layer SSSI invertebrate a
    Analysis of invertebrate community data for Natural England
  • Lake et al. - 2015 - Results of the Hazeley Heath grazing trial.
    Hazeley Grazing Trial analysis of data for Hart District Council and RSPB
Evidence gathering

Evidence gathering

In many cases, research and information has been published around a topic but an overview is missing. In such cases a review of literature can allow existing information to be collated and examined, specific questions to be answered and knowledge gaps to be identified.

An extensive library

We maintain an extensive library and reference database (using Zotero) with over 7500 references, including scientific studies and ‘grey’ literature. We also hold long runs of relevant major scientific journals, and have electronic access to current ecological journals and hold much unpublished data and information not widely available to other researchers. Examples of literature reviews we have carried out include:

  • Lowen et al. - 2008 - Access and Nature Conservation Reconciliation sup
    Access and nature conservation reconciliation: supplementary guidance for England a review of nature conservation impacts of recreation (including specific consideration of Mountain Biking and Horse Riding) for Natural England
  • Lake - 2016 - Upland Pony Grazing a review
    The role of ponies on Dartmoor for the Dartmoor Commons Council
  • Floyd, L and Underhill-Day, J C - 2013 - A literature review on the effects of pet cats on
    The impacts of pet cats on nearby wildlife sites for Breckland Council
  • Underhill-Day - 2005 - A literature review of urban effects on lowland he
    The role of urban effects on heathlands for English Nature
  • Underhill-Day and Liley - 2006 - Deer and heathlands, a review. A report to English
    The impact of deer on heathlands for English Nature

Biological data

We also collate biological data about sites where this is needed to inform management decisions or planning policy. Sources include records from biological records centre, site citations and site survey and monitoring data. This often forms the background to projects such as management plans and HRAs. In some cases further interpretation is also needed.

Contact us to discuss your project

We’re always ready to talk about your requirements, so please do get in touch today

Tel: +44 (0)1929 552444