Last week, David Dodds came to tell us all about what it’s like to be an ecological consultant who specialises in bats!
So what do ecological consultants actually do?
- Their main aim is to limit the damage done by people such as developers (the bad guys!), so what thet do isn’t really conservation – more like prevention!
- They advise developers on things like wildlife laws, licenses for development, and moral obligations
- Their jobs involve LOTS of fieldwork! They are always having to do wildlife surveys and research on behalf of their clients.
- Unfortunately, this also means LOTS of report writing, which often end up in courts of law.
- A lot of teamwork is involved, working with people from lots of different ecological disciplines on one site, and there is lots of talking and careful planning!
- Work can often be seasonal, especially if you work with bats!
- Also often requires antisocial hours and lots of travelling to various sites
- Most importantly – although we’re all here for our love of wildlife – ecological consultants have to be able to deal with people too! A LOT! It’s important in this job that you can talk to people and be able to influence their decisions!
What kind of work do they do?
- Environmental impact assessments
- Site assessments – walk over a developer’s site and look for signs of wildlife which might be affected by the development
- Ornithology surveys
- Protected species surveys e.g. bats, great-crested newt, badgers, red squirrel
Ecological consultancies can vary greatly in that they can be just one person, or a small/large team of people, either generalsing in all aspects of ecology or specialising like David Dodds specialises in bats! Large companies can be very variable, and while they may have better managment, smaller companies may actually be better and more professional – a smaller number of people can communicate with eachother much more easily!
DAVID DODDS ASSOCIATES
As I’ve mentioned already, David Dodds’ company are bat specialists. They are a small company with a small team of survey assistants who help them carry out their work. A lot of their work is planning-related: so someone will appy for planning permission, and their job will be to ensure that no protected bat species will be affected by the planned development! In some cases they may be able to get a license to move the species from the site, but most often they try to work around them.
Daytime surveys of the site are done to scout out any signs that bats might be present, like roost sites or droppings, then more surveys at sunset and dawn are carried out to actually find the bats themselves! Occassionally, the team will even have to go on undergroud surveys to look for hibernating bats and may even get the chance to handle bats in some cases! Sounds like fun to me!
- Why, poo of course! Bat droppings are a great sign that you’ve found somewhere that bats like to hang out! They are pretty similar to mouse droppings – if you know what those look like – except bat droppings are much more crumbly and will turn to dust if you rub them a bit… lovely I know.
- Moth wings! You wouldn’t think this would be something you’d want to look for on a bat hunt, but it is! Brown long-eared bats eat moths as a major part of their diet and will rip their wings of before eating them. So you can find piles of moth wings in places where bats go to feed!
What happens once you’ve found the bats?
Once a bat roost has been found on a site, an alternative home has to be found for them! So what do you do? Build bat boxes of course!
The first bat boxes were made for a forestry commision scheme, and were constructed from single planks of wood. These types of boxes tend to last about 10 years before they rot. Nowadays, a more updated version made of woodcrete (woodshavings + cement) is used. These boxes are a much more realistic representation of a tree hole and are much more successful in getting bats to live in them! Some bat boxes are placed high up in trees attached to pullies, specifically for Noctule bats who like to have their roosts very high up. There are also other types of boxes which can be attached to the outside walls of houses and they do a good job too!
However, it is not always easy to get the bats to relocate to where you want them to go! They may find other suitable places themselve for a while, before coming to your bat box. Nevertheless, the aim of David Dodds’ team is simply to increase the available roosts for bats so that they always have a place to go, even if they are not always used.
Despite all this, it is always preferable to leave bats where they are and not disturb them! If possible, the work is arranged to go on around the roost but minimise any damage and disturbance.
I WANT TO GET INTO ECOLOGICAL CONSULTANCY! WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?!
- A degree in any kind of bio science is pretty much essential
- An MsC is not so essential, but it can be useful!
- A CIEEM membership is also really useful! This is a professional body for ecologists and big companies will expect you to be a member. They do good, cheap workshops and networking events, and also an excellent magazine according to David!
- You have to be fit and active for fieldwork and be enthusiastic and committed!
- You should have good written and verbal communication skills, for report writing and engaging with clients
- Be willing to work long/antisocial hours
- Most importantly, you really need to have FIELDSKILLS!! Without having field experience you won’t be able to get this kind of job right away, so get out and volunteer and get as much experience as you can! Try attending one-day CIEEM workshops, intensive FSC courses (cost £300 but can get funding and are worth it!), TCV training workshops, attend conferences such as the Bat Conservation Trust Scottish Conference, TWIC Conferences etc.
Other places to go for volunteering/fieldskills experience: your local amphibian and reptile group, bat group, RSPB and other local groups, Plantlife Scotland, Buglife, local biological record centres (the Glasgow centre is run by Glasgow Museums), or how about coming up with your own project and teach yourself some field skills that would look fab on your CV!!
Many thanks to David Dodds for coming to speak to use and giving us so much useful information! If you’d like to find out more about David Dodds Associates visit their website!