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From the Yorkshire Dales to the Midnight Bell

A year of Yorkshire and Humber Section Events

Photos: identifying aquatic plants at the Stainforth and Keadby Canal (by Phillippa Baron)

As ever, the Yorkshire and Humber Section has been busy throughout 2015 and early 2016.  In February 2015 we held an joint event with Wharfedale Naturalists Union in Ilkley on ‘Conserving Nature in the Dales: Couldn’t we do Better?’.  Peter Welsh, a former Area Manager for Natural England and now an ecologist with the National Trust talked about the action needed by various conservation bodies and landowners and farmers to promote ecological functioning at a landscape scale in Yorkshire Dales National Park.

In March the ever popular and gregarious Barry White led a field event on winter hedgerow surveying, covering the practicalities of surveying during the winter months; and the requirements of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 assessment and other recognised survey methods, including the Defra-led Hedgerow Survey Handbook.  We held two evening talks in Sheffield.  One was on the restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS).  This is a national programme led by the Woodland Trust (WT) and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).   Regional WT PAWS Restoration Officer Robin Ridley gave an introduction to the programme, outlined its importance and gave examples of restoration in progress.  This talk was linked to a well-attended April field visit at Bagger Wood near Barnsley, where Robin covered restoration work that has been taking place, and future plans for management.

The second evening talk was led by eminent woodland historian Professor Melvyn Jones, and Christine Handley. Together they gave an introduction to ancient woodlands, and the archaeology often found there: bell pits; the charcoal industry; ancient trackways etc, which ecologists are often unaware of.  This gave insights into past woodland management practices and hidden clues to our industrial and social past that are often missed, forgotten, or misunderstood when surveying ancient sites.  It’s not just about indicator species and big trees, you know. 

In May the Section held its 2015 AGM in Leeds with the election of new office-bearers and committee members.  You can read more about them on the Section page of the CIEEM website.  Stephanie Wray, then Vice President of CIEEM (now President), gave an introductory talk and Gordon Haycock gave a presentation on a very successful great crested newt translocation case study in the Wharfe Valley.

A well-attended Y&H Section event was held at FERA, near York on an April evening with over 50 CIEEM members attending a presentation on eDNA analysis techniques and protocols.  Two lead FERA staff outlined the eDNA analysis they provide and the scientific methods being used to extract great crested newt DNA as well as the logistical practicalities of collecting and processing water samples.  The talk was informative and sparked discussion from members embarking on the survey season about timings and methodology, as well as potential application for other species.  Positive feedback was received from attendees who commented on the excellent pre event communication, venue facilities, refreshments and information provided on the evening itself.  

FERA has now been partly commercialised, with part becoming the APHA.  The Section is looking to hold an event there next year on radar tracking of birds and application in offshore windfarm planning.

In August Ray Goulder & Phillipa Barron of the Canal River Trust led a walk by the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, to identify the aquatic plants present. 

In September CIEEM’s own Penny Anderson led a well-attended workshop aimed at CIEEM members applying, or considering applying, for Chartered Ecologist (CEcol) registration or wanting to find out more about it, covering the CIEEM Competency Framework.

The Section has supported student careers events throughout the year, including a CIEEM-sponsored careers afternoon at a BES summer school for ecology undergraduates, held at Malham Tarn field centre.  Andrew Halco-Johnston, Dave Martin and Tim Graham, a member working for YWT, gave presentations on their careers and answered questions from students.

Our season was rounded off at the end of November with what is becoming a popular regular event; our End of Season Section Social and Topical Debate

Following the success of a similar event held in 2014, we returned to the ‘Midnight Bell’ in Leeds for a lively social evening and discussion on new techniques within the world of ecology. After catching up over a few drinks and the all-important buffet, members were invited to take part in a quiz hosted by Andrew Halcro-Johnston and Barry Clarkson of the Section committee.

The first round focussed on eDNA survey for great crested newt, which was widely adopted by ecologists in 2015, and prompted members to share their experiences and debate the positives and negatives of the techniques used. This was followed by a fun round of world ecology, before prizes were given and the evening wrapped up.

Once again there was a good turnout of members from across the region.  It looks likely that the end of season social will become a regular fixture in the Yorkshire & Humber Section calendar, so make a note of it in your diary now, and remember to look out for the date in the CIEEM calendar nearer the time.


Article written by Sara Parratt-Halbert, Dave Martin and Andrew Halcro-Johnston, CIEEM Yorkshire and Humber Section Committee.


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