Friday, 26 May 2017

Work placement with Community Science

Guest blog post by Ellie Shaw
I chose to come to Moors for the Future Partnership for my work experience, working with the Community Science team I have seen and taken part in a large range of activities and developed lots of skills.

I have listened to talks about what Moors for the Future do and how they do it and have attended a bumblebee training session in Todmorden where, with a few other members of the local community, we learnt how to identify and record the different types of bees. 

In the afternoon we tried to put what we had learned into practice and went for a walk around the local area, despite there being a lot of flowers and plants, we saw relatively few bees, 5 or 6 early bumblebees, some tree bumblebees and a Common Carder queen bee which I found on a car.

I also helped at an event at Chatsworth where we, myself, Joe and some casual members of staff, set up and ran the teachers preview event in the stick yard to raise awareness but also as a practice for the following weekend. 

As well as various information boards and activities such as matching the caterpillar with the butterfly we had various demonstrations, one showing the blocking up of gullies by pouring water down tubes, one smooth, one grassy and another grass and model gullies demonstrating how the work MFFP do slows down the water and allows sediment to build. We also took peaty water and poured it through a bottle filled with sphagnum moss to show how well it cleans the water.

With school I had to set myself three goals for the week, to improve on analysing figures, improve on problem solving skills and build on my knowledge of using online programs. I feel as though I have achieved all three, I have learnt to analyse records of sighting and been able to input them into iRecord using other programs to help me find the needed information and I have built on problem solving skills through many things such as helping to organise and set up events.

It has been a great week which I have really enjoyed. The range of different things I have seen and done has given me plenty of ideas about what I want to do in the future and a much larger awareness for what is around me. Thank you.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Buds, Berries and Leaves survey: A volunteer view

Guest post by Community Science volunteer Jeff Kessler: 

So, here I am slowly walking up a steep hillside. I’m a bit short of breath & the wind’s cold and has a bit of a bite to it but do I care? No, because the sunshine is glorious & the views are just stunning. 

The other side of Luddenden Dean is a patchwork of fields & woodland; steeper lower down then a shallower slope higher up as it becomes the shelf. Above that is the moor, bleaker but still beautiful & full of life, albeit not quite as showy as some other habitats.

Volunteers undertaking a Buds, Berries and Leaves survey...

I’m on my way from Jerusalem Farm car park to the beginning of the Midgley Moor transect to do the Buds, Berries and Leaves Survey. It’s an easy task, I just have check & record whether the specific plants being surveyed have buds, berries or leaves on them. 

I’ll then pass on the data to Moors for the Future, who’ll use it to learn about changes in the timing of events in the plants’ life cycles; important information to track the effects of climate change. I don’t need to be a botanist, or even know that much about plants to do this, I got the training I need in a day & I know I can contact the Moors for the Future Community Science team if I need any advice.

So, what do I get from doing this survey work for Moors for the Future? I’ve learnt more about certain plants & the moorland habitat, & have now started to work on my general plant id skills & understanding of ecology; I get the satisfaction of contributing to scientific investigation of the natural environment & how to protect it; I get lots of fresh air & exercise; if I’m lucky I’ll see a kestrel or other bird of prey!

All round, well worth doing!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Storm Angus

The UK was battered by rain and high winds in November this year as a storm named 'Angus' made an appearance.

Angus hit the south of England during the 19th and 20th of November, but it wasn't until the day after when the heavy rains had moved north and reached the Peak District and South Pennines, that we were able to record the storm.

This blog post looks at how the equipment installed on our Community Science environmental monitoring sites reacted to this event. 

Volunteers collect information from these sites each month, and use the same equipment and methods as Moors for the Future science team do on other sites where conservation works have taken place. In this case though, we're interested in capturing long-term climate datasets on sites where conservation works haven't taken place.

The bar chart below shows how much rain fell on each of our five sites over four days:

Click on the image to see a larger version
Marsden had the most consistent rainfall with 71.2 mm recorded across the four days. Despite Holme only recording rainfall on the second couple of days of the storm (21st and 22nd), it received the second highest amount, with 73 mm in total. The Roaches had 45.6 mm over the four days and Edale had a surprisingly small 33.6 mm. Out in front was Burbage Moor, which recorded a total of 78mm over the 4 days, with nearly 70% of this falling on Monday 21st.

So how did all this water behave once it reached the ground? The line graph below shows how the water table on the sites changed over the days around the storm. The 'zero' mark on the left hand axis represents ground level, and each line shows how close to the surface the water was (in metres) over the four days of the 'official' storm, and a couple of days afterwards.

Click on the image to see a larger version

We can't be certain what is happening here, but from a quick look at the graph we could surmise that despite having less rainfall than the other sites the water table at Edale (the driest of the sites) increased the most, jumping up by around 10 cm, before rapidly decreasing again as water drained away. 

The Roaches water table also had a sharp increase, however as the water on the site is consistently close to the surface, it only increased to around ground level - but then seemed to stay there, possibly because the site has plenty of Sphagnum moss, and clay underlying the peat layer. 

On the Holme site the water was also already close to the surface, and despite having very high rainfall, the water table didn’t change dramatically, or as quickly. 

Marsden did show an increase in water table - but it was gradual and the new higher level was maintained in the days after the storm event. The site is very flat and also contains Sphagnum moss among its vegetation, which could perhaps help to explain this pattern. 

The site which had the most rainfall (Burbage) also showed a small response - the water was almost at surface level; and you can see it even exceeds zero, forming a puddle! This is another very flat site and does have some Sphagnum moss present. 

The complexity of  hydrological data - taking into account the many variables which can affect the way water behaves on a site - means that we cannot draw any firm conclusions just yet. However, our volunteers will be analysing our environmental data in more depth in the near future...

Graphs and text by volunteer Mollie Hunt, and the CSP team....

Monday, 5 December 2016

A volunteer view

Guest blog post by Community Science volunteer Mollie:

I've been volunteering with Moors for the Future for the last few months and it's been a fantastic experience. 

I've learnt a lot about the flora and fauna of moorland environments and got the opportunity to explore different places across the Peak District/South Pennines.

Since the middle of September I have been taking part in the dipwell campaign. The purpose of this is to measure the water table level across different sites in the South Pennines on the same day every week for twelve weeks. There are over ten areas to cover with 2 to 3 volunteers or staff members each so it's a fairly big operation. 

For our group of volunteers we've had the responsibility of monitoring five patches across the Kinder Scout Plateau. As someone who's only ever been up and down a small part of Kinder it has been an amazing opportunity to explore the landscape up there and see it change as we've gone from September through to December.

Kinder river - our favourite spot for a lunch break

We've seen ring ouzel, kestrels, a mountain hare, lots of grouse, flocks of redwing and field fares and one of my favourites, a snipe. 

It's going to be really interesting to see what the data shows about how well water is retained across different sites, as many of them have restoration works happening nearby. Taking part in the dipwell campaign has been a great way to get involved and didn't need any previous experience. I'm hoping to also take part next year to see how the sites are continuing to change and hopefully spot some more wildlife!

You see all kinds of weather on the dipwell campaign!

If you'd like to volunteer with Moors for the Future take a look at our volunteering page:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A celebration of the rowan tree

For National Tree Week, Community Science project officer Tom Aspinall has written a blog to celebrate the rowan...

Every time I see a rowan tree my love for them grows! They truly are one of the most stunning trees that we have in Great Britain.

There’s also so much to learn about them beyond their obvious aesthetic beauty...

Of all the trees growing in our country, the rowan is the one able to grow at the highest altitudes. This explains one half of its other common name – the mountain ash. You can walk in the mountains of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales and find rowan trees growing in the most obscure places such as rocky outcrops and cliff faces – they really are a hardy tree. However, they are a pioneer species and as a result are short-lived and often relatively small, usually reaching a maximum height of 10-15 metres.

The second half of the other common name comes from the close resemblance of their leaves to those of the ash tree. This is another of our stunning native species, but one which favours lower lands than the rowan. The leaves of both these species are compound and pinnate, meaning they are made up of several leaflets in pairs along the main leaf stem with one at the tip, as can be seen in the image of a rowan leaf below.

Whilst these leaves are distinctive, it is the beautiful clusters of small cream flowers that then turn to scarlet red berries that really make the rowan stand out from the crowd. The flowers are a great source of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects such as bumblebees, and the berries are a valuable source of food for many species of birds including thrushes and waxwings. There is no greater sight than seeing a flock of waxwings feeding on the berries of a rowan tree in late autumn.

Illustration (c) Chris Shields

 Ecologically, the rowan is a very important tree in our countryside - but it also has strong cultural significance - in no small part due to the vivid red colouration of those berries. The colour red has long been thought of as the colour to ward off evil and so rowan trees were once planted near houses to keep evil spirits away. Its Celtic name – ‘fid na ndruad' – means ‘wizard’s tree’.

Names can tell us many things, and with all species of animals and plants it’s worth trying to learn and understand the scientific name to gain further insight into the history of a species. Rowan’s scientific name is Sorbus aucuparia with ‘aucuparia’ being derived from the words ‘avis’ for birds and ‘capere’ for catching, describing the use of rowan trees as bait to lure in birds to be caught.

The rowan is one of four plants associated with the uplands that volunteers have been monitoring as part of our ‘Buds, Berries and Leaves’ survey. This survey records the timing of natural events (such as bud burst, flowering, fruiting and leaf fall) over the long term, to see if they are changing.

In this way we hope to be able to monitor the effects of climate change on the vegetation of the uplands. If you’re interested in contributing to important climate change data by walking a regular route and recording what you see, then please have a look on our website for more details:

I hope you’ll agree that rowan truly is a jewel of our countryside and definitely a tree worth appreciating.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Top tips for entering our photography competition

Here are 6 top tips for those thinking of entering our 'Water in the Uplands' photo competition:

1.  Slow the flow

Reduce your camera’s shutter speed to catch the dreamy effect of water in flow. 

A tripod is a handy piece of kit to keep your camera steady, but alternatively use a small bean bag or even a folded up jumper to sit your camera on. 

Use the self-timer function so you can go hands free, ensuring the camera doesn’t move while it’s recording the shot.

2. Beauty in the details

Look more closely at water and you’ll be amazed by some of the little details to be found.

Capture bubbles below a waterfall, reflections in puddles and get really close to discover the world of water droplets.

3. Water in the landscape

Consider the wider landscape and make water a part of the bigger picture.

Think how it has shaped its surroundings whether naturally or by the addition of man-made structures like bridges and weirs.

4. Go abstract

There’s so much potential for creating abstract images of water.

Create patterns from a flowing waterfall or focus on ripples in a calm pool.

5.  Winter wonderland

Winter is a great time to photograph water as the cold takes hold to create ice and snow.

Get out early after a cold night and capture incredible ice formations clinging to plants and rocks.

Alternatively take a break from sledging after a big snowfall and capture incredible winter scenery.

6.  Life giving water

There are many plant and animal species that rely on the habitats provided by the water in our uplands.

Capture beautiful creatures in their watery homes or look at plants like Sphagnum mosses that keep our blanket bogs saturated.

Tom Aspinall

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Autumn cloud inversions

Autumn is a fantastic time of year to witness some stunning scenery and landscapes - and perhaps one of the very best sights is a cloud inversion:

Above is the view of Edale valley from Mam Nick yesterday. Inversions like this need specific conditions to form. They are most likely to be seen in early morning when a layer of saturated cold air becomes trapped underneath a layer of warmer air higher up the valley sides.

The inversion was still visible from Kinder Scout later yesterday morning as Community Science volunteers headed to the Environmental Monitoring site:

Looking back towards Edale - Rob Westrick

Remnants of cloud still visible in Edale from higher up the hill - Rob Westrick
From the plateau cloud could be seen still clinging to the Hope Valley in the middle distance; while the crystal clear upper layers of air allowed a stunning view for miles:

View from Kinder - Richard Walker