Author Archives: Lisa Critchley

The effect of Covid 19 on the day to day life of a placement student – Sophie Gregson

The effect of Covid 19 on the day to day life of a placement student – Sophie Gregson

The effect of Covid 19 on the day to day life of a placement student

Guest Blog by Sophie Gregson

During this time of uncertainty there has been many constraints introduced as the safety precautions across the world increase. Up until Monday the 30th of March I was still able to achieve access to my site Shankill Cemetery, however following government guidelines it shut that night for the foreseeable future. I am lucky enough to have completed surveys of the site every Monday for the past two months meaning I still have a small amount of data I am able to compare and write about, however I do not have enough data to make a clear comparison across the months like I originally planned.

With the new government guidelines in place restricting travel and visits to pubic areas the site was forced to shut, the government have not made any indications as of yet as to when this quarantine will be over. With this in mind it has left my project with many uncertainties such as, will the site be open again before my placement is completed in May? Will the work being organised for the site still be carried out considering no one has access or is allowed out into the public domain without good reason?

I was able to compete two months worth of data before the quarantine was brought into place this  will allow me to still complete a biodiversity report on the Shankill cemetery site. The data is currently stored on our hard drive in work which we are currently working towards achieving access to. Having this data really is a life saver as it means my report isn’t at risk, it may not be exactly what I wanted to achieve but at least it won’t be for nothing. With the data I have I will still be able to give solid recommendations on how to improve the biodiversity of the site. In the next coming months I was going to add to my survey the type of flowers and insects such as butterflies found at the site, however I didn’t get to collect solid data on this due to it being to early in the year. I was also going to set out camera traps to see what sort of mammals lived on and around the site however this also will not be achieved. The data I’ve collect so far is all bird based so the report I will be completing will be based around this.

Impact of COVID-19 on placement – Aine Mallon

Impact of COVID-19 on placement – Aine Mallon

Impact of COVID-19 on placement

Guest Blog By Aine Mallon

Introduction

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. It has been made aware that people cannot leave their homes unless it is essential, such as for food or medicine and if you are a key worker (NHS staff member). This has meant that for my placement with Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership, we are not allowed to be working together in the office and not out on site for the safety of protecting ourselves, own elderly family members and those who may care for a sick relative. This is a very new situation for myself which I’ve never experienced before although I am learning new ways to adapt to this and carry out my placement work daily.

Methodology for project work

My main goal is for bats project and carrying out as many surveys as I can during this current situation. I am very lucky to have completed my maps for my project work during our office hours before COVID-19 was introduced. What I want to do is continue editing my maps to highlight the main features that my chosen sites have to attract bats species to thrive here. I can continue this editing feature from home as the ARC GIS was used to produce the maps with a transect route I will follow when carrying out my surveys. My overall review of results and my conclusion can also be worked upon from my own home after I complete my survey work.

Survey work

Bats

For my project to be successful, my surveys are essential to gather as much data as I can about the different bat species I record. I would have been using the bat box griffin device, which was borrowed from the Belfast Hill’s Partnership team, to accurately listen and record the species I would hear on my surveys. I would have then used the computer software at Belfast Hill’s Partnership which would have gave me a visual display of the different range of frequencies from echolocation of the bats to read properly and record the species for my project and CEDaR.

However, the coronavirus has prevented me from gaining access to Belfast Hill’s office as social distancing is an important measure to be followed through seriously and many workplaces now remain closed. I have decided to not abandon my surveys because of this, I have taken the magenta bat detectors home and will carry out surveys with a family member who I am currently living this. Although this device wont record the bat species, it will test my ability to assess the sounds of each bat at different frequencies because bats use echolocation for communication and to find their way around in the dark, the sounds which they emit are ‘ultrasonic.’ The magenta detector will pick up these frequencies and I will continuously move the detector around from 55, 45, 25 to see when I gather a clearer sound from the bat to detect the species.

Magenta Bat 4
This is the magenta bat detector device I will be using for my survey work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds

Although this is not related to my project work, I want to continue challenging what knowledge I have from bird calls and their distinctive features. Whilst the different bird species are still fresh in my memory from surveys done during placement, I can continue to practice this by going for walks during the day at Crumlin Glen and then during the late evenings for bat species. I can also carry out bird surveys from my own back garden and record what species I find for my own benefit and knowledge.

Garden Biodiversity

During this lock down period I have also asked that my mum and granda try to leave some of their garden longer and uncut to attract more wildlife diversity. I have also encouraged my grandparents to plant more colourful plants in their garden and then during springtime I can go witness any bumble bees and butterflies coming to their garden.

Research work

As I am now a member of the Northern Ireland Bat Group, I am getting continuous updates about detailed events that will happen during summertime (if they can go forward with them) but with each event they include a website. These websites include a range of background information regarding the protection of bats and videos explaining how they are misunderstood and need to be protected. Given that this COVID-19 has said to have came from a bat species, I want to continue researching valuable reports and help to get the public message across of how the transmission of a virus (or other vector of disease) from wild animals to humans is normally the result of human alterations to the environment.

I hope to continuously teach my close friends and family of why I am concerned for their protection and how bats shouldn’t be looked upon as just ‘carriers of diseases.’ I want to research new methods of what we can do in our day to day lives to help protect the bat species and limit the destruction of their natural habitats. As the news is focusing on the safety of NHS and COVID-19 number of patients, I am still currently researching how this is impacting the environment worldwide. I will be submitting a report at the end of April highlighting the positive environmental impacts which will require much research. I am also finding a lot of articles on Facebook and Instagram about these changes to how it is impacting air pollution levels and how the range of different animal species are responding to it.

Venice Canals
An example of the environmental impact; Venice Canals are thriving with fish now that tourists are gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

It will be a challenge for myself to continue carrying out my project work without the necessary resources I can use but I will continue to try my best at producing a report which will reflect my ability for this research project of mine. Through technology I can remain in contact with my fellow peers from placement and I can contact my boss or set up a meeting through skype if I need any assistance or guidance areas of my report.

How Covid 19 has affected my placement- Aoibhe’s Blog

How Covid 19 has affected my placement- Aoibhe’s Blog

How Covid 19 has affected my placement

Guest Blog By Aoibhe McCarron

My original project for this year was a project focusing on farmland birds such as tree sparrows. After having surveyed a site called Silverwood for many weeks I decided I would take this on as a project. At Silverwood, I saw that the wild bird cover, which had been introduced, had caused an increase in the abundance of bird species at the site. The site had also been allowed to grow and not managed in the same way it had been before. Species such as Linnet which hadn’t been seen there before began to appear.

Tree sparrow, and many other seed-eating bird species, have been in decline in the UK and Ireland due to loss of habitat, food sources and new farming practices. I decided to take on several sites around the Lough shore to see if something similar could be carried out. I chose sites which were former areas where tree sparrows had been seen, which I learned about from a lady called Pat Flowerday who had carried out a similar project about 15 years prior. I decided to put up new nest boxes at the site and feeders to see if this would help bring the birds back to the Lough shore. Unfortunately the project was cut short due to the COVID 19 lockdown. However, I think the surveys I have carried out will make good data for comparison when the project is properly executed next year. I did see tree sparrows at one of the sites, and I’ve also made links with the landowners and got their permission to put up the new nest boxes so I hope I have set up the base for something good next year.

I had to return to my home in Derry. I thought about what I could do and decided to make a similar mini project based in my garden. I’ve encouraged my dad to let the margins grow a little to see if this will help. I’ve been surveying a few days a week 8am-9am which I think has really helped bring along my bird ID skills. I’ve also been making note of any pollinators I could spot. The main species I’ve seen in my garden are Starling, followed by House sparrows and Chaffinches.

 I decided to take a walk out the road where I live the other day and survey there, where I saw something really interesting which I hadn’t seen before. Two little yellow faced birds with brown wings which I couldn’t identify, so I went home and had a look online. I discovered the birds were Yellowhammers, which are red listed so I was really pleased to see it.

 I plan to get a bird feeder when I can and see what effect this has on my results in my garden. I think this has taught me anyone can make a difference even at home in their own garden with simple projects like these.

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Michael McCoy

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Michael McCoy

Planet Earth 2 – Islands

Blog by Michael McCoy

Hi guys, so I was tasked with watching the BBC documentary “Planet Earth II” and writing about the different adaptations within the animal kingdom. The programme is narrated by Sir David Attenborough and focuses on how many different animal species have managed to live together and adapt to the changing environment around them. The first episode was based on many different islands around the world which are generally very small and nearly untouched by man. Due to the lack of human activity, habitats have been allowed to grow and remain undisturbed.

 Komodo Island in Indonesia is home to the largest lizard species in the world known as the Komodo dragon. A very large and fierce predator, the Komodo dragon dominates the island. Due to few resources of food, the Komodo dragon has adapted by being able to live on a single meal a month at a time. They do this by lowering their metabolic rate and take in heat from the sun to warm themselves rather than keep a constant body temperature like ourselves. When it comes to seeking a partner, body size is everything as large males can overpower smaller males and chase off any competition. The Dragons have gained many evolutionary features to aid them such as sharp teeth, thick skin made out of scales and a large tail to injure or kill their opponents.

 The island of Madagascar has quite a unique range of habitats that contains many species which you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. The most famous are the Lemurs, which contain over 100 different species from one common ancestor. Each species have adapted to the environment in their own way. Some Lemurs have evolved to live in warm climates by having special kidneys that allows them to retain more water in their body. This is important as it prevents dehydration due to a lack of water in the surrounding area. Lemurs teach their young the different tricks and social skills that they have used to survive as eventually the young will have to fend for themselves.

 Fernandina island , the latest of the Galapagos islands,  formed through volcanic activity with molten lava cooling and becoming solid after an eruption. Many species have tried to live there but it is a harsh environment with little nutrients. However, the island is home to particularly strange creatures. The Marine Iguanas gather on the edge of black lava rock and dive into the sea. The reason for this is due to the Iguanas being herbivores and since there is too little vegetation on land, they dive into the ocean and eat algae. The Iguanas have adapted to the water by having partially webbed feet and specialised lungs that allow them to hold their breath for 30 minutes. They have also formed symbiotic relationships with other species. This means that both species benefit from interaction. The main example is how Sally Light Crabs feed off the mites that attach onto the Iguanas while exfoliating the iguana’s skin in the process.

 The documentary has shown how these islands are teeming with life and are home to a variety of rare and wonderful species, which have adapted to their environment over thousands of years of evolution. However, over recent decades, human activity is threatening these environments. Due to the introduction of non-native invasive species, overfishing, pollution and overall climate change, we are seeing a decline in many species as they cannot adapt fast enough. As many of the islands are quite small, they are very delicate and will not require much to upset the balance of the ecosystems and their inhabitants. Therefore it is important, as humans, to think of the actions we undertake and help reduce the activities which could potentially destroy these islands.

 

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Sophie Gregson

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Sophie Gregson

Planet Earth 2 – Islands

Blog by Sophie Gregson

On remote islands, such as Escudo off the coast of Panama, many wildlife face many struggles these reflect the challenges we all face with life on earth. The Pygmy three-toed sloth strives on this island with a large food source of mangroves that provide them with leaves and no predators to threaten them, however with only a few hundred Pygmy sloths left in existence, finding a mate can be difficult. A female sloth will call out which can be heard from across the island, the male sloth will travel across the island even swimming across deep water rivers to reach their mate. This can be difficult with such a large amount of area to cross at only a snails place, the whole population of the Pygmy three toed sloth is isolated on a piece of land no bigger than Central Park. Humans can also struggle to find a mate, not because of our inability to travel fast, as we are a nation of globetrotters, but due to the sure amount of people available to us at one time. Due to the constantly evolving platform of social media people have adapted to this meaning they tend to find love online as they may believe this is a better option than having to go out and work to make something happen. We are a generation of dating apps and short-lived relationships with hopeless romantics feeling defeated, with little romance left in the world the younger generations expectations are much to be desired. Being part of a society where everything is so fast-paced and readily available relationships now have to be that too.

The island of Komodo in Indonesia is home to the largest living lizards on earth, it is unusual to find predators on such small islands yet for four million years the Komodo dragon has dominated this island. With such a large predator based on this small island lack of food  would maybe be deemed a problem but with reptiles being cold blooded they only need a tenth of the food a carnivorous mammal would, one single meal could last them a month. Their biggest problem comes from others of their own kind with space being limited on the island dragon territories overlap creating continual conflict. This can also be seen among the human world, we too are our biggest predators and threat to one another. With limited space due to over population, pollution and mass unmanned landfills, the fight for land and over lapping territories have been a problem since the dawn of man.  Humans have always seen it as their right to go wherever they want to go whenever they want which has caused many wars corrupt governments along with greedy leaders have destroyed many countries and cultures.  One country trying to conquer another based on oil supply or other rare natural elements and food supply has and always will be a problem.

On bigger islands, such as Madagascar, the animals have had time to evolve and adapt to every available niche. The island is home to two hundred and fifty thousand species many not found anywhere else on earth. From one single ancestor about one hundred different types of lemurs have evolved. The indri is the largest; it hunts through the trees while the smaller ring tailed lemurs hunt in groups on the forest floor searching for fruit, the tiny bamboo lemur eats nothing but bamboo. With few competitors the lemurs have been free to colonise almost every environment on the island even the most extreme. The sifaka has a hard life being born in the harshest environment in Madagascar it rarely rains so water and food is hard to come by. Just like the lemurs the human race has evolved over thousands of years spreading widely across the planet, colonising every part. Some parts are plentiful with food and water such as America and the United Kingdom while other countries such as some in Africa find it difficult to survive just like the sifaka their land doesn’t receive a lot of rain so water and food is difficult to come by.

Over the last fifty years, ten volcanic islands have been formed, they are newly created and usually remote making them hard for colonists to reach. Fernandina one of the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific is young and still volcanically active, making it a desolate place. The surrounding sea however is particularly rich with life, making it perfect for sea going iguanas they graze on the floor of the sea but then return to live on Fernandina. By doing this the iguanas are also helping other animals to survive too, crabs feed on the dead skin on the iguanas backs while smaller reptiles feed on the flies the colony attract. Just like humans they all work together to support and provide food for one another, without the iguanas life on Fernandina would be scarce much of the wildlife relies on the iguanas to support their food chain.

To finalise in the animal kingdom there is a vast amount of similarities to the human world, they have adapted over thousands of years in order to survive the devastating effects we have had on their home. Their abilities to constantly adapt to the changing world is what ensures their survival against us.

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aoibhe McCarron

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aoibhe McCarron

Planet Earth 2 – Islands

Blog by Aoibhe McCarron

This week in quarantine; my fellow placement students and I have decided to watch Planet Earth II to see how animals adapt to their changing environment and see if there are any lessons we cant take from them. This week we watched episode 1 (in isolation of course), the episode is about islands, and aptly focuses on life in isolated or extreme environments, adapting to changing environments and working together. In the documentary David Attenborough says ‘The challenges on these islands reflect the challenges faced by all life’, islands are a microcosm of our living planet.

One of the islands in the documentary is Madagascar. Madagascar is one of the oldest islands on earth and has over 250,000 species occupying every niche. We see several lemurs in the episode, who all live extremely different lives and in different habitats. All lemurs came from a single ancestor and there are now thousands of species adapted to many different niches, which makes for little competition and harmonious living (most of the time). This evolution to such a wide range of niches is an adaptation to the vastly varied habitats in Madagascar, lemurs and other animals have been able to make their homes even in the most desolate and harshest environments to reduce competition between species. This is not dissimilar to humans adapting to living in all sorts of different environments around the world, from the deep cold of north Norway to the dry heat of the Sahara.

We then move to one of the Galapagos Islands. The island is young with lots of volcanic activity so there isn’t a great variety of species which can survive there. However, there are many reptiles living on the island. The main species are the aquatic Iguana and the Racer snake, however there are other smaller reptile species there too and these live in mutually beneficial relationships (symbiosis) with the iguanas. Small crabs and Lizards eat dead skin and flies that pester iguanas, providing them with food (and a good exfoliation for the iguanas). This behaviour is an adaptation to the volcanic environment which doesn’t provide a wide range of food sources. As humans, we too have to work together to survive. Each person in our society has a different role to play much like the different species on the Galapagos, for example we have food growers, street cleaners and nurses, all playing their part to ensure society runs smoothly.

On Christmas Island, one of the most spectacular sites is the march of the Red Crab. Unfortunately, lots of tourists share that opinion, which has increased traffic on the island causing many of the crabs to be run over. As well as this Yellow Crazy ants which have come off boats have now established a super colony on the island. They use acid to kill the Crabs, these are not a natural predator of the crabs and therefore the crabs do not have any adaptations to defend themselves. This is all down to the action of humans.

In a way, we are like a disease on the natural world in the same way that COVID-19 is on us. I really enjoyed watching planet earth II, and I think it would be great for us to take a leaf out of our neighbours in nature’s book. If the planet can change to adapt to the changes we’ve made, then surely we can change too. At this time especially, we live in competition with each other. We’ve all seen the pictures of people coming out of the supermarket with 50 toilet rolls, which causes some people to have a lack of resources ; if we could all be a little more considerate of others resources like groceries and toiletries could be shared out equally and increase all our chances of getting through this together.

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aine Mallon

Planet Earth 2 – Islands – Aine Mallon

Episode One- Islands

Blog by Aine Mallon

Introduction

Due to the circumstances of the pandemic situation regarding the Coronavirus, it is important for one to understand how humans could learn about how animals work with one another to survive in harsh environments. The purpose of this report is to explore the collaborations of different species and how they make living on an island together bearable for one other. Such islands have been described as a microcosm of our living planet. Island ecosystems also contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem functions, they provide defence against natural disasters, support nutrient cycling, and soil and sand formation. They contribute to the regulation of climate and diseases.

How can the size of Islands impact Species and an example?

The size of an island can have a huge influence on the fate of those cast away there.  What this means is that an island’s size also affects its biodiversity, smaller islands will have less niches, less habitats, and lower immigration which negatively impacts the food chain for the area. However, since larger islands will have a wider variety of habitats, species which arrive on the island will diversify to fill up the available niches. Larger habitat size reduces the probability of extinction due to chance events.

Example:

The Komodo dragon in Indonesia dominates the small islands here, but on these mini-continents, life experiments and evolves. The Komodo dragon has been recorded as 2.6 metres long when fully developed, which asks the questions why would such a big predator thrive on a small island when food source may be scarce? These islands are volcanic in origin, the dragons like it hot, with daytime temperatures during the dry season that often reach 95 degrees. As these islands provide warmer temperatures the predators have merely adapted to a reduced food supply. Since in one feeding, they can consume 80% of their body weight therefore, they only need small amounts of food to survive, a meal will last a Komodo dragon a month before it needs to eat again.

Remote Islands

An island, especially a remote one, may be colonised by relatively few species. This allows the members of one species to exploit numerous different lifestyles, or niches. As the individual groups adapt to their different niches, they may evolve into distinct species.

Example

The sea-going iguanas will thrive on volcanic islands, which are remote and lack nutrients they need, although the sea will provide them with their food source. Their short, blunt nose is well-adapted to feeding on algae growing on rocks. The flattened tail is perfect for swimming. Marine iguanas are an excellent example of a species well-adapted and continuing to adapt to their environment

It is important to conserve the biodiversity of the marine iguana because it is a unique and interesting animal. It is necessary to protect their island refuges from feral pests and human exploitation because they are long lived animals that cannot sustain added mortality. By bringing nutrients from the sea to the land, iguanas help other animals to survive here too, by supplying them with a food source. The animals are working together to all survive in this environment.

As the iguanas provide food for such other species, they play their part too. The crabs will eat the dead skin off the iguanas back, this assists the iguanas as it is like an exfoliation for them. As well as this, the smaller lizards that thrive on the volcanic grounds prey on the flies that pester the iguanas. It is evident how the diverse range of species accommodate one another in such a way that benefits them greatly.

What can humans learn from this during COVID-19?

It has been made evident how different species adapt to their surroundings and limited food sources available. As animals work together, we too must help others in our neighbourhood who are older and cannot get out to the shops for essentials very easy, assist them by any means possible. We need to be more sensible with buying essential goods in these unprecedented times, taking into consideration the rest of our community.

Conclusion

Although this report has mainly focused on examples of how animals adapt to change and how humans can bring different changes to their lifestyle during this pandemic. The issue of climate change and human activities regarding the destruction of isolated islands cannot be forgotten.

Island environments are particularly sensitive to human impact because their generally smaller size means resources are limited, scarce or finite, resulting in increased pressure on those resources. The global temperatures could exceed a 3°C above pre-industrial temperature increase by 2100 with global-mean sea level rise projected between one and four feet or higher, all due to climate change and ruin the isolated smaller islands. Human activities must change in a way to reduce their actions that negatively impact and increase climate change.