Following the appointment of our new professor John Fa, we got together to discuss the research we are doing and plan future projects. With an eye on the future, our thoughts turned to the next Research Excellence Framework, where university departments across the country are graded on the quality of their work. University departments are not only assessed on the scientific quality of their work, but also on its wider impact. One of the things that struck me during our discussions was the amount of research in CEB that has real practical impact outside the confines of academia. These include thinking outside the box to find ways of saving the critically endangered Liben Lark, using molecular ecology techniques to identify whether domestic cats are responsible for injuring large numbers of bats, and working to successfully breed and reintroduce black rhinos in Kenya.
A few weeks ago, I was pleased to see a POSTnote (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology note) reporting some of my work, the Biodiversity Audit Approach, to policy makers in the UK. The idea behind Biodiversity Audits is to collate the huge numbers of species records collected by amateur naturalists and observers into one database, and use these to assist conservation planning. Conservation management in a region is often driven by a small number of species, often those that are large and charistmatic, without considering the hundreds (or thousands) of species that have conservation desingations. We consider the ecological and managment requirements of these hundreds of conservation priority species and group them into guilds according to shared requirements - allowing conservation management to be targeted at multiple species, and highlighting the management most important for rarest species in a region.
We have currently completed Biodiversity Audits for the Broads, Brecks and Fens in East Anglia, and are currently looking for partners for more audits around the country. A copy of our paper describing the methodology is available for download here.