Improved understanding of local patterns of occurrence and activity of all bat species utilising volunteer networks.
Technology advances and development of analytical techniques, coupled with reduced costs of hardware, has made large-scale acoustic recording of several taxa increasingly feasible, opening up new approaches to monitoring, research and engagement. The project was set up to improve understanding of local patterns of occurrence and activity of bat species. The approach of setting up a network of data centres across the county where volunteers can arrange to borrow and return equipment allowed a large number to carry out the surveys. This resulted in a far larger and more comprehensive dataset than could have been achieved with alternative models. These data feed into county reporting, to help make decisions, including planning decisions at a local level for bats.
Research and development has focused on quantifying likely impact of planned housing development on the distribution and activity of bats. Findings from work were published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The influence of different mitigation measures for reducing negative effects of new housing were explored, along with wider impacts of new housing, and ways in which these could be mitigated. Working with the Paris Natural History Museum and Natural England algorithms were also developed for the semi-automated sound identification of UK bush-crickets. With continued collaboration with Yves Bas in Paris this work was extended to build a classifier for a suite of nocturnal birds.
- The Norfolk Bat Survey was set up in 2013 with funding from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Defra (Defra Fund for Biodiversity Recording in the Voluntary Sector).
- 1500 volunteers
- network of data centres
- on-going funding required is approximately 25,000EUR per annum
Evidence of success
A strategic review by the Bat Conservation Trust(BCT) on the future of bat monitoring in the UK, decided that the Norfolk Bat Survey was an ambition that they would like to see scaled up to a national scale. The ambition is to set up a British Bat Survey as part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme to run from 2020. Discussion on this led to a NERC funded project led by University College London on species classifiers, affordable static detectors & an online interactive survey.
Our main problem has been securing on-going funding for tool maintenance to continue the project. Since setting up the project, we have developed a lot of the infrastructure and tools needed to run a large-scale acoustic project, so the cost of running the project has been reduced significantly.
Potential for learning or transfer
There is huge potential to consider the approach, the infrastructure and tools that have been developed to provide robust data on bats (and some other species groups) to help inform good decision making. Our work in Norfolk has influenced the future direction of national bat monitoring in the UK, but there is clearly potential for transfer of knowledge more widely.