Thursday, 28 March 2013

Blue Planning Requires Green Thinking

The European Commission (EC) recently launched a proposal focused on marine spatial planning, primarily to support the growth of a sustainable blue economy across Europe.

One of the main aims of the proposal is environmental protection, and it is hoped that such legislation, if ratified by the EU Council, would reinforce both the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Habitats Directive. Both of which aim to promote conservation of habitats and ecosystems (i.e. foundations of the Green Economy).

If marine spatial planning is to succeed in protecting the environment, good quality biological evidence must be a fundamental cornerstone in decision processes. Specifically, it is the analyses of marine biological habitats and associated species to form habitat / biotope maps which are required. 

Photo:  jonkriz (Flickr Photostream)

Within the UK, the Marine Management Organisation has completed such a planning exercise for the East of England. They have published some useful documentation around the processes they used. One document makes recommendations they concluded from using habitat / biotope maps (

Our team have experience helping organisations, from gathering and analysing data to providing marine biological planning inputs.

Please get in touch with us ( to find out if we can help your organisation.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Facts are Facts – If only you could remember where you put them!?

 Raw data is an asset. Excellent raw data, which provides the best platform for making assessments, is proportionally costly to collect. Having invested to collect the data, like any asset with value, why would you jeopardise your investment or reputation by not looking after it?

Have you experienced any issues with data management? Do you prefer spreadsheets or databases? Why?

In order to be useful, raw data must be able to efficiently deliver value (i.e. be able to form part of a robust assessment) in the long term. For research, this may be years after the initial data is collected (e.g. for long term population monitoring projects).

The data journey can be made more efficient and user friendly through adopting specialist software. Clearly there will always be a human element to data; all the software should do is focus the human element to the most important parts of the journey.

I will be speaking on this topic at the upcoming Offshore Business 2013 conference, in Southampton, UK. Come along and listen to me at 14:55 on Wednesday 10th April. Alternatively reach out to me if you see me on the day, or email and we can always meet up.

Offshore Business 2013 -
Photo - NASA Goddard Photo and Video (Flickr Account), Used under Creative Commons Licence (

Friday, 15 March 2013

Developing Biodiversity - Is anybody out there?

Developers and designers applying their skills to ecology and biodiversity in general seem to be a small, select group.

Google Trends shows a high increase in searches for ‘hackathon’ since 2011.  Set against this are erratic results for ‘biodiversity software’, since 2007, and steady declines in ‘ecology software’, ‘taxonomic software’ and ‘computational biology’ since 2005.

While there seems to be an increasing number of computational biology degree programs offered throughout the world, the application towards ecology and biodiversity receives little or no mention as a career path possibility (on degree websites at least).

Events such as this weekends env[:hack] in Bristol, organised between Environment Agency, Ordnance Survey and Geeks of London, are to be welcomed. The role of these events, which attract not only experienced but beginner developers and designers, is fundamental in showcasing the potential importance such skills can play in helping the planet in its biodiversity challenges.

The env[:hack] event expects to attract 80+ developers and designers from all experience levels. Clearly people with an interest are out there, do we just need to be more specific about the opportunities relating to ecology and biodiversity?

At Thomson Ecology, we are always on the look out for talented and enthusiastic people with ideas they want to develop or share. So if you fancy going against the trend (Google Trends anyway), then feel free to make contact. 

env[:hack] - 

Photo: jurvetson (Flickr) - A map of ocean temperature variation and some of the Sorcerer II sample sites

Friday, 8 March 2013

Unlocking the past with data papers….

Data papers, published in journals, can provide a valuable tool in unlocking historically collected data. An example being the recently published “Antarctic macrobenthic communities: A compilation of circumpolarinformation”, published in the journal Nature Conservation. This article aims to unlock over 55 years worth of data from 90 expeditions.

Image: NOAA's National Ocean Service - Flickr

Clearly such data could be valuable for future research efforts. In order to be useful, historical data may need updating prior to or subsequently after publication. This may involve taking account of taxonomic changes that have occurred, where names may now be synonyms etc. This process can be speeded up by using specially designed software (e.g. TREx).

For more information on TREx and it uses, please visit our website (

Information Source: EurekAlert!