University of Leeds
Deans honour's list
I am now qualified as a zoologist and researcher, having attained a 1st class degree (as well as distinction on the Dean's Honour List) from the University of Leeds. I spent 10 months conducting my own field research for my final dissertation.
In 2014 I was fortunate to get my first choice for a research project; investigating the species richness and abundance of British bats from an urban to rural landscape, and multi-scale analysis of habitat relationships. My supervisor is renowned for his superlative work on several bat species, and he allowed me to come up with a new and innovative way in which to study the bats. Armed with an Ultrasonic bat detector, GPS, Edirol, recording device, torches and an OS map, I decided I wanted to focus on construct habitat suitability models across an urban to rural landscape- as this current area of research lacks attention in urban areas, and yet is one of the most pertinent in continually developing world. It involved looking at how bat activity and foraging distributions change from an urban to rural environment, (Leeds to the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park), taking into account habitat features and variables such as inland water, urban cover, woodland edge and coniferous forest, in relation to bat activity. Across 30x3km transect study sites, I recorded bat acoustic activity, as well as the exact location of the tracks using GPS to be able to geo-reference where the bats were, along with the saved WAV recordings.
Species identification was interpreted using Bat Sound, an acoustic detection software where sonograms of bat calls were analysed manually and sorted into different species and individual calls. Then this data was correlated with the time stamps of the exact position of where the bat call was recorded, then this was implemented into Arc GIS (10.1) as different bat layers. Maps of the studies transects were downloaded from an online source (OS Master Map- Topography Layer).The next stage of the project involves the use of ArcGIS to create buffers and habitat layers. With this I will be able to work out any relationships between the individual bats and certain environmental variables. What I hope to achieve is to aid with improvement of management and conservation strategies that can be implemented to protect and conserve them in their urban as well as natural habitats. This is vital in the foreseeable future as the human population continue to grow, and habitat loss contributes declining numbers. It is incredibly rewarding to have collected and analysed the data independently, and researched the subject sufficiently to proceed with the next stages of project. This is despite the dangers of doing transects at night in remote locations, harsh weather, and the equally complex and challenging statistical data analysis. Nevertheless, it has been worth it!
I also have an understanding of IBM SPSS 21 statistical software package, which I have used when conducting research (freshwater ecology, pollination efficiency, spatial distribution of dog whelks, feeding efficiency and vigilance in wading birds and bat species abundance/richness from an urban to rural environment). I have also undertaken specialist zoology training on two Field Studies Council trips to Dale Fort and Malham Tarn include mammal, bird and insect trapping skills as well as species identification. Harp net /mist net set up for capture of bats, and basic map orienteering have also benefitted me greatly in terms of assisting with animal filming and bushcraft. Having reccently volunteerd with the Nature's Valley Trust in South Africa, I can also identify esturine species as well as African birds from which we spent two days capturing and ringing.
The Nature’s Valley Trust are a highly committed NGO whose multidisciplinary approach of incorporating environmental and socio economic factors leads to an ever important relationship between communities through research, education and conservation. I myself had never come across it, however Mark Brown, the programme Director for the organization, tells me it’s only been up and running for two years, and yet the impact that it’s having on the community already is remarkably refreshing. Mark, a renowned ornithologist has extensive experience when it comes to publishing papers- having authored and co-authored over 50 papers in peer review journals, his passion for all things ornithological took him from the world of academia at the University of Kwazulu-Natal to several NGO sectors.
I had been invited along to see the team of students (both undergraduate and masters) set up the field nets to capture and ring local bird species in order to assess the population status as well as other vital rates (age, sex, weight). I must admit I was incredibly excited; the most thrilling bird I had the opportunity to ring back in the UK was a Blue tit, all be it a rather endearing bird. But South Africa is world renowned for being a birdwatchers paradise, from the stunning iridecant plumage of the Orange-breasted Sunbird, to the cryptically coloured knysna warbler- it is most certainly a top-class spot for any avid twitcher.