This week saw the return of Spingwatch to UK TV screens. This is a cause for excitement not only because it’s “full of sex and violence (in the animal kingdom)” but also because it gives us an excellent excuse to talk about two of our fantastic JISC Geo projects that should be of particular interest to budding and academic naturalists alike.
IGIBS (#igibs) is working on tools for researchers to share and discover research through mapping their results, through viewing other data available, through seeing what other studies have taken place on/in the same place. The project is looking specifically the huge quantity and variety of research which takes place in the UNESCO Designated Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere Reserve.
The Dyfi Biosphere is not only beautiful but also contains a uniquely rich variety and quality of habitats which attracts a phenomenal array of bird and other wildlife species. This is fantastic for researchers on biodiversity, on particular soil types (such as the famous Borth Bog), and for naturalists of all kinds… which is presumably why this year Springwatch is also based there!
So, if you become curious about the science and research taking place in and around the Dyfi Biosphere as you see the Springwatch team presenting from the RSPB Ynys-hir reserve (see below) over the next three weeks, do have a look at the IGIBS project page (or keep an eye out on this blog) for updates on this important (and clever) tools for researchers in the Biosphere. And if you happen to be a researcher with data on Dyfi do get in touch with us or the IGIBS team.
Image of the Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve in the Dyfi Biosphere - taken whilst visiting the IGIBS Project
The other project that we think will delight Springwatch fans is NatureLocator (#NatureLocator), a project to develop a phone application that will allow you to record biological survey work.
NatureLocator are focusing, in the first instance, at the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Moth (the wee beastie pictured below) and tracking it’s effect on Horse Chestnut Trees. If you want to find out more about these moths and the damage they cause have a look at the NatureLocator blog where the team have posted images of what a Horse Chestnut Tree should look like and what a moth-attacked tree actually looks like.
Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner Moth by Tristram Brelstaff (tristrambrelstaff on Flick)
The exciting news from the NatureLocator team is that the code for their Android and iPhone applications is almost finished and they have recently posted some preview images of their application. These images give a great sense of how easy the app will be to use: you simply record the damage by taking an image and answering several questions and (using the magic of GPS enabled smart phones) place this on a map. This will allow sophisticated tracking of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner moth problem but there are endless infestations and natural phenomena that NatureLocator should be able to help track, map and advance understanding of. In fact if you have any ideas about how the app could help with your own area of research then do get in contact with the team via the blog.
Mapping is central to understanding and analysing all kinds of natural phenomena – for instance both Springwatch and the RSPB have both asked volunteers to contribute sightings of signs of spring and of birds before now. Mapping any species in detail and particularly mapping changes in sightings, soil quality, etc. can demonstrate important issues such as climate change, changing breeding habits, new plant diseases.
If you have encountered an inspiring example of the way in which people are using maps and geographic information to understand the natural world then please add a comment beneath and we will feature the best projects/websites here on the blog in a few weeks time!