What is DESS? A course to train ten top field ecologists
DESS stands for Developing Ecological Surveying Skills, and is a unique course being run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The course began in May 2011 and will run for 18 months. The course content includes teaching nationally recognised survey methodologies such as Phase 1 Habitat Survey, National Vegetation Classification and protected species surveys (bats; otter; water vole; badgers; red squirrel; pine marten; wild cat; birds; great crested newts). The project will cover field and lab identification of key taxonomic groups including birds, mammals and higher plants but also less studied groups such as lower plants, lichens, fungi and invertebrates. Along with the all important field skills, the project will also teach technical supporting functions such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), IT skills, health and safety, database management, statistical analysis and report production. In addition, participants will learn business skills including how to prepare tender documents, contract conditions, invoicing and financial record keeping.
The course is being led by Claudia Gebhardt, who has several years prior experience working with a large ecological consultancy in Scotland, specialising in bats, and a background in small mammal research. The ten trainees who were selected from over 400 applicants are: Carolyn Cowan; Danny Oliver; David Sutherland; Eilidh McNab; Glenn Norris Jason Mckay; Katherine White; Nathan Dove; Sara McBride and Tom Edwards. They have come from a range of backgrounds and bring together a range of experience from ecological consultancy; academia; environmental law; planning; government; nature conservation and GIS. As well as gaining a solid grounding in all aspects of field ecology individuals in the team are also pursuing specialist interests including working for bat licences; entomology and bryology.
Training is being delivered by experts in the field, and in the first two months of the programme has included training from Ben Averis on field botany and NVC; Tom Hastings, Anne Youngman and John Haddow on bats; Rob Strachan on otter and water voles; and Craig Macadam on invertebrates, including fieldwork in the Lothians; Ayrshire; Galloway; and the Grampians.
The purpose of this blog is to allow people to find out about the programme, and to provide an online diary of our experiences in the field, and post photos and accounts of what we have been getting up to. We hope you will enjoy reading.