05 Nov 2020 Supporting Professional Development: Invertebrate Survey Training
Training provision during 2020 has been significantly complicated by Covid-19. To address this, we have attempted to integrate job-related work with training wherever possible. One such initiative has seen Dr Jim Fairclough, our lead entomologist, providing training to staff based in South Wales, Derbyshire and Newcastle in invertebrate survey.
Training in assessing invertebrate habitat potential and aquatic invertebrate survey was completed at a site bordering the Gwent Levels Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), near Newport. This provided some of our Welsh ecologists with experience in recognising important habitats for terrestrial invertebrates in the context of a large, heavily contaminated brownfield site, and practice using the Invertebrate Habitat Potential Assessment tool (which is currently being developed by John Dobson (of MakeNatural) and Jim Fairclough). The team also gained experience in the completion of targeted survey for terrestrial invertebrates, including the setting and retrieval of pitfall traps, grubbing, sweep netting and beating and spot sweeping.
The Gwent Levels SSSI is notified due to the nationally important plant and invertebrate communities associated with the reens and ditches. As such Countryside Council for Wales (now part of Natural Resources Wales) produced a series of guidance notes for survey and monitoring of these habitats in relation to potential development projects. During the day Jim was able to instruct the ecologists in how to undertake invertebrate survey in accordance with the guidance enabling them to confidently apply the assessment tool alongside becoming more familiar with survey methods for aquatic invertebrate fauna.
Jim also spent several days training ecologists from our Newcastle and Derbyshire offices in benthic invertebrate survey. This has enabled the team to collect data from over a hundred sites in the North East of England in order to measure the biological quality of watercourses (as a potential indicator of pollution). Survey methods have followed Environment Agency protocols, and typically involved kick sampling and direct searches for aquatic invertebrates. Basic environmental parameters were also recorded as part of the survey work. This work will be repeated in Spring 2021 to provide a more complete understanding of any biological responses to potential environmental effects.
Most ecologists attending this training were already familiar with aquatic invertebrate survey of this type. However, all found it a very useful refresher on the exacting standards required to comply with the Environment Agency operational instructions.
Emma Bruce (Ecologist) said: “Before attending the training event I had some knowledge of general aquatic invertebrate survey techniques but limited practical experience. The training provided me with an understanding of the specific Environmental Agency survey method protocols and the opportunity to immediately put this into practice through project work, which I found really beneficial.”