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.
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
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
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.
We undertake data collection, consultation and literature reviews to provide an overview of conservation issues, whether site-specific or national.
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:
Bird disturbance fieldwork (breeding birds and wader roosts) in Morecambe Bay for the Morecambe Bay partnership
Bird disturbance fieldwork, visitor fieldwork and modelling (Individual Based Models) on the Solent to consider links between housing, recreation and disturbance
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
Study of Bird Disturbance in Poole Harbour including comparison of use of different areas by birds during the night and day, for Natural England
Strategic review of bird disturbance research priorities for Natural England
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:
Impacts of bait harvesting (bait digging and bait dragging) on the SPA interest of Poole Harbour for Natural England
Purbeck seabird survey involving annual monitoring for National Trust and partners
National survey of Southern Damselflies for Natural England
Solent vegetation survey a survey of strandline vegetation in the Solent for Natural England
Botanical surveys of mire restoration areas in the New Forest for the Forestry Commission
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:
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.
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:
Distribution and feeding ecology of divers and small grebes in the Falmouth/St. Austell area for Natural England
Assessment of the vulnerability of Welsh habitats and species to recreation impacts a large-scale GIS project for Natural Resources Wales/CCW
Spatial analysis of stone curlew territories in the Brecks in relation to buildings and roads undertaken with Bournemouth University and RSPB for Breckland Council
Research relating to changes in access and impacts on bird survival (assessed through individual based models) on the Solent for the Solent Forum
Analysis of invertebrate community data for Natural England
Hazeley Grazing Trial analysis of data for Hart District Council and RSPB
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:
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
The role of ponies on Dartmoor for the Dartmoor Commons Council
The impacts of pet cats on nearby wildlife sites for Breckland Council
The role of urban effects on heathlands for English Nature
The impact of deer on heathlands for English Nature
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