Emerging technologies in ecology

This year is going to be really interesting in the ecology world. There are various new and exciting technologies being introduced that could really change the way ecology surveys are conducted.

Environmental DNA (eDNA)

Surveys for Great Crested newts have always been contentious both for ecologists and for our clients. Traditionally surveys can be very time consuming, expensive and seasonally constrained to between mid-March and mid-June. Until now new survey methods or tools have not successfully become commercial, however there is now one new technology that could revolutionise newt surveys; eDNA.  This method in the ecologists toolkit can be utilised to prove presence/ absence by taking water samples during a single visit and then through an approved laboratory the water samples can be tested for the presence of great crested newt DNA.  

It is early days in its implementation,with this year being the first that it is being provided commercially but as part of an ecologists toolkit, to be used in specific scenarios it can save clients a large proportion of the survey costs.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

I am sure that anyone interested in technology will have heard about UAVs/drones becoming easier to use and more affordable. This year there are various products expected to hit the market from some of the big brands and also from new startups.  At Ecology by Design we can see drones becoming a very useful part of our toolkit, especially for bat assessments, remote mapping and partial access to difficult locations such as cliff faces. Small handheld drones can be taken by bat workers to building inspections and flown around the building by the consultant carefully investigating and taking stills or video images of features of potential interest to the ecologist.  For aerial mapping drones can be programmed to fly a flight path automatically taking images and then stitching them together to produce a high resolution detailed aerial image of your site. 

Really this is only the tip of the iceberg and we at Ecology by Design are going to be following this technology closely to see how we can utilise it to full effect for our clients. We may be investing in drones during 2015 to test how this technology could be used.



Bat detectors

Every year new bat detectors are released on the market there is often much debate in the 'bat world' about what is best (Wildlife Acoustics or Anabat). This year Titley who make the Anabat are releasing a new detector 'Anabat Walkbout', which has really caused a stir in the market. This new detector will be Android based and will have the feel of a mobile phone/ PDA. Using GPS it can produce bat activity maps remotely reducing the time spent post survey to analyse and display the survey results. Until now Ecology by Design has not shown favour to any one bat detector but this new tool could really shake things up. We will be investing in the Walkabout for this years bat survey season.


Remote mapping

Ecology tools are constantly trying to reduce the amount of work post survey and companies have often created basic mapping tools to be used in the field on PDAs. Oxford Brookes University are shortly releasing habitat mapping software that can be installed onto iPads providing a means to plot maps in the field avoiding wasted time by producing maps in the office from sketches made in the field. The toolkit is due imminently and could be the start of a new wave of off-the-shelf products made specifically for ecologists. 



Ecology by Design aim to utilise technology to make both survey work and business operations more efficient therefore reducing the cost to the client. We investigate new technologies early to bring you the best service on the market. As new technologies or updates arrive we will keep you informed.  Check back here often to be sure to keep up-to-date.