20 Jul The Survey Game
I first began writing these snippets for a different platform that did not allow for any level of detail or verbosity. In many ways this enforced a level of discipline in the writing in order to distil the most relevant aspects of the subject being discussed at the time.
Now, having moved to a more forgiving platform, it was time that we brought together the writings of the last few months into an expand and integrated format.
These blogs are intended to share my views on what makes good terrestrial vertebrate fauna surveys. They are based on over 25 years of field work and around 4000 days (and climbing) of field time. That experience was gained in the private sector working in the resource and government areas. It allowed me to understand the need for succinct and focused survey planning and research.
My views are certainly not the final word on the subject but I hope it gets people to think about what they do and how they do it.
So we can begin from the beginning.
Lets investigate some important aspects of surveying for, in this specific case, terrestrial and volant vertebrate fauna.
The simplest question is what does a survey allow us to do. And to answer it simply, a survey will allow us to characterise an or all aspects of the biotic component and/or processes in the landscape.
A survey can concentrate on a specific ecological process (e.g., seasonal microhabitat variability) and it can concentrate on the one species (i.e., seasonal microhabitat variability in species 1) or multiple species (i.e., Sp1, Sp2, Sp3,…….Spx). It can also be designed to determine the overall biotic component within habitats found in the landscape or targeted to rarely encountered species. Surveys can combine a number of these options and more to achieve quite a lot.
The ultimate outcome of any survey is to increase an understanding of ecosystems and their functions. What it is not, solely a list making venture (although, good surveys will give you good lists).
Critically, the value of any survey is ultimately dependent on the degree of effort placed into its design and planning – great ideas are not worth much if they cannot be translated into reality. The design and planning of surveys must encompass all aspects from:
the formation of the questions that underpin the investigations;
a background analyses of available data and documentation;
a determination of survey methods to help answer those questions;
the logistics of undertaking the proposed survey;
the storage and maintenance of data collected from surveys;
analysis of the data; and, of course,
the communication of the results of the survey.
In subsequent blogs, I will look at each of these aspects of surveys (and the list is not comprehensive) and discuss just some of the factors that need to be considered.