Ecology Group Projects

What do we monitor?

The monitoring projects we carry out has been carefully designed to look at the groups of species most suited to assessing the quality of the particular habitats found on our reserves and in our Living Landscapes, and in a way that maximises the ease, efficiency and sustainability of our approach. Resources are always limited, and we aim to make the best use of what is available to us. The species of course are conservation priorities in their own right and we monitor those too.

In developing our monitoring strategy, assessment of the various species groups considered the existence of well-established monitoring schemes for those species, the level of expertise required to identify them, taxonomic complementarity, the practicality of monitoring each group in the field, and importantly the usefulness of each group in assessing the quality of habitats, the number and range of those habitats in which they occur, and the affinity and specificity of species within those groups for specific habitats and microhabitats. The aim is to monitor groups with a large enough number of species that there is a good range of specialisms for different niches across a broad range of habitats, where identification guides or keys, distribution information, and ecological knowledge, are sufficient to make the group useful.

Which Ecology Group project is right for me?

The table below details each Ecology Group project, describing the activity, the level of skill required (beginner, intermediate or expert), the time commitment involved, and whether the activity is usually conducted as a group, pair or individual.

Project Description Skill levels & training Commitment Group or individual?
Botanical surveys No prior knowledge of plants is necessary, though anyone with botanical skills is more than welcome. Regardless of skill level, anyone can turn up to a botanical fieldwork day and go away having both contributed and learnt something. A great way to learn about the diversity and identification of plants.  Beginner, intermediate, expert. Simply coming to sessions for ‘on the job’ training is a great way to start. See also the KWT Wildlife Study Days Programme.  Come to just one session, or come to them all, the commitment is entirely flexible. Plant surveys are usually a group activity, led by a member of KWT staff, though it is anticipated that volunteer group leaders may come forward.
Butterfly transect surveys A structured walk along a defined route recording species and numbers of butterflies Intermediate, expert
(beginners may pair with an experienced surveyor to develop skills). An induction on the survey methodology is provided. See also ‘Kentish Butterflies’ in the KWT Wildlife Study Days Programme.
 
Once a week, for 26 weeks, April-September, in suitable weather, arranged by the surveyor at their convenience (odd missed weeks are ok, but the aim is to complete most visits). Butterfly surveys tend to be individual activities, but working in pairs is encouraged, and can help train beginners
Ground beetle monitoring Fieldwork involves setting pitfall traps and direct searching for beetles, lab sessions involve identifying beetles indoors with a hand lens or microscope Beginner, intermediate, expert. The ‘Ground Beetle Identification and Ecology’ Wildlife Study Day is highly recommended. Flexible, though to develop proficiency in identification a sustained commitment is necessary.  Ground beetle fieldwork tends to be a group activity, identification can be done at your convenience, though group support is anticipated.
Dragonfly and damselfly transect surveys A structured walk along a defined route recording species and numbers of dragonflies and damselflies Intermediate, expert. (Beginners may pair with an experienced surveyor to develop skills). An induction on the survey methodology is provided. See also ‘Kentish Butterflies’ in the KWT Wildlife Study Days Programme. Once a week from April-September, in suitable weather but arranged by the surveyor at their convenience (odd missed weeks are ok, but the aim is to complete most ). Dragonfly and damselfly surveys tend to be individual activities, but working in pairs is encouraged, and can help train beginners
Breeding bird surveys Using establish transect or territory mapping methods to monitor bird populations, competence in identifying birds by sight and sound is essential Intermediate, expert. NEW Wildlife Study Day ‘Bird survey techniques, songs and calls for beginners’, also ‘Get more from your bird watching’, and others in the KWT Wildlife Study Days programme.  The breeding bird survey season is from (March)April to June (July). Survey s involve between 2-3 or 5-10 visits, starting in the early morning, and lasting up to 3 hours each.  BirBird surveys tend to be individual activities. d surveys tend to be individual activities. 
Reptiles Surveyors visit reserves and follow standard walks, taking them past artificial refuges located in sunny spots. Surveyors note the presence of reptiles, and their condition, both at refuges and elsewhere on site. They are encouraged to take photos and make notes of any important local issues. Beginner, intermediate, expert. A Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG) training course in reptile monitoring and data recording will be offered in March/April at Tyland Barn. There will be no charge for this course which will take up an afternoon. It will involve a class room presentation followed by practical exercises in a local wildlife reserve. The reptile survey season is from March to October. Surveyors would be expected to visit reserves ideally once a month, preferably two or three times. Surveys can be completed in about 1 hour. Individual, or may be conducted as a pair