Tuesday, 23 July 2013

When creation is simply not enough

As the social and policy pendulums swing, our environment is being subjected to an increasing number of performance targets. But are we equipped to truly help our environments meet these targets?

The desire to reverse impacts on our habitats and ecosystems has resulted in legislation across many parts of the world. For example, in the European Union (EU) there is the Water Framework Directive, requiring ‘Good Ecological Status’ of rivers by 2015. Targets of this nature, inevitably lead to: 1) current status baselines; 2) remediation and restoration works; and 3) evaluation of efforts.

In the area of rivers, the EU IMPACT project1 is hoping to inform effective habitat restoration. From this project comes a free and open source fish dispersal model (FIDIMO2), allowing the likelihood of fish to (re-)colonise restored or remediated habitats to be calculated. This kind of tool and information should help deliver more effective river remediation and restoration efforts, at least for fish.

But, do we have enough knowledge to deliver effective remediation and restoration work in the first place? If not, what other tools and models are available to help? What more can and should be done?


Peter aka anemoneprojectors Flickr Account - Creative Commons

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Agreement to Help Secure Valuable Global Resource

The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS, www.marinespecies.org) is used by over 80,000 marine biologists from across the world every month and represents the only expert validated list of global marine life. A recent agreement will help secure funding for this valuable global resource.

The agreement means that royalties will be paid to the organisation behind WoRMS, the Society for the Management of Electronic Biodiversity Data (www.smebd.eu), from every sale of Thomson Ecology’s software tools. Mark Costello, WoRMS Steering Committee and ex Chair, who signed the agreement on behalf of WoRMS explains the benefits:
We believe that making the WoRMS list available, and regularly updated, through software tools in the marine field will have a positive impact on the quality of scientific reporting. WoRMS content is already freely available to anybody from the website, but Thomson Ecology provide added value to users by incorporating it within their desk-top software for users. The income generated for WoRMS by Thomson Ecology will help us to improve the quality, scope and sustainability of the database, in service of the scientific community.”

Tom Gardiner, senior product manager for Thomson Ecology, explains the benefits to users:
The WoRMS list has become an industry standard since its creation, and our users have increasingly fed this back to us. Incorporating the list into our software, means users around the world can now easily increase the value of their data asset. Our software tools have always helped increase efficiency and now users can benefit from reports and outputs being aligned to WoRMS.”

Thomson Ecology will now begin work to integrate the WoRMS list into existing software tools, TREx and Unicorn. To celebrate the agreement, Thomson Ecology is offering vouchers to purchase the new version of TREx for £50 (+VAT) when it is released in a couple of months (see promotion details). This offer is open until end August 2013.

To request any voucher(s) you can email your requirements:


WoRMS News Article
Thomson Ecology TREx Promotion

NOAA's National Ocean Service Flickr Account (Creative Commons)

Friday, 5 July 2013

The key element of effective marine planning and management...

One thing seems certain; there is room for improvement in our current planning and management of the marine environment. How can we as scientists help achieve this?

At a recent coastal and marine management conference1 in London, a general theme became clear: Our current marine planning and management regimes can and should be improved. This was right across the board from Government and Industry to NGOs. What also became clear to me, as a trained scientist, was that science itself had been part of the problem. How can these issues be overcome? What is the key?

Communication. I believe it is that simple. Specifically I am referring to communication which is clear, simple and above all suitable for the audience. Take the failed example of the 1998 NASA Mars Climate Orbiter2 landing. According to an Investigation Board, the reason for failure was the lack of clarity on whether metric or imperial units were being used. Cue a gigantic amount of money and time being lost. The problem is, with the marine environment we do not necessarily have this time or money to waste.

Areas that seem to require effective communication are likely to include: 1) scientists helping to define the policy questions to answer; 2) presenting information to policy makers; 3) achieving a truly interdisciplinary approach; and 4) Engagement with stakeholders. All these areas require clear and simple communication to facilitate realistic and deliverable outcomes, which will ultimately help achieve effective marine planning and management. As Einstein once said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”

Further, effective communication can deliver the type of truly interdisciplinary projects needed in this big data and fast climate changing world we inhabit. All may not be lost from the past however. A wealth of collected data already exists from past projects, all we need to do now is make it relevant and up to date as well as add value through linking disciplines and their data together.

Do you agree, that communication is key? Are there any other key issues en route to achieving effective marine planning and management?


USFWS Endangered Species Flickr - Creative Commons 2.0 Generic