Category Archives: Courses & Training

Applying a Biodiversity Management System at a busy Urban Shopping Centre

On Monday (16th October) I travelled over the river to attend a CMA study day in the South East region. The setting was an unusual one, based at Bluewater Shopping centre in Kent, and it promised to be a really interesting day looking at how the “environmental asset” of the site is managed to enhance biodiversity.

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“Urban habitat”. The built and natural environments provide an interesting contrast.

The aim at Bluewater is to balance needs of the wildlife and the expectations of guests to access the habitats for recreation. We started off the day with an introduction to the site, its history and its wildlife. Phil Bolton of Wildthing wildlife consultants explained how the Biodiversity Management Strategy is used to manage and enhance the biodiversity of the site. This system was a factor in the shopping centre winning a Green Apple Environment Award in 2009, and the site has also won the Green Flag award in 2016 and 2017.

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Photos: Veteran Trees Course

Photos from the course “Valuing and managing veteran trees: a three day advanced course for trainers” that I attended last week. This was an excellent course delivered by the Ancient Tree Forum in Epping Forest, which is home to thousands of ancient and other veteran trees.

Wildlife Sites in Urban Areas – Greenwich Ecology Park

Re: Upcoming Study Day (12th Dec) – Wildlife Sites in Urban Areas

This article appeared in the Countryside Management Association’s East of England regional newsletter that was sent out to members in March 2017. You can find out more about membership of the CMA on their website.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park in London hosted a CMA study day on 12th December 2016 looking at urban wildlife sites. The Ecology Park is managed by TCV – The Conservation Volunteers (formerly known as BTCV) in partnership with The Land Trust.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park has played a crucial role in the regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula and is part of a huge government regeneration scheme put into place in 1998. The Park opened to the public in 2002 and has become an established and remarkably diverse urban wetland. The area is still developing rapidly however, which makes things challenging.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park

We had a great mix of CMA members and non-members at the event, including a number of TCV volunteers from other sites who took the opportunity to learn more about Greenwich Ecology Park from the staff who have managed it for 15 years.

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European Ranger Congress 2017: an overview

So two weeks ago, the European Ranger Congress brought together staff and volunteers from across Europe (and beyond) to talk about the future of nature conservation. If you think that would be an inspirational event to attend, you’re not wrong!

The 4th European Ranger Congress took place 9-13th May in Litomerice, near the Bohemian Central Uplands of the Czech Republic. People from 26 countries attended, people who are working or volunteering as Rangers (and allied professions) in their own countries.

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Flying the flags at the Opening Ceremony

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Be a Biodiversity Ambassador

I’ve just completed another free online course. I know, I’m a bit keen when it comes to learning. There are worse addictions I’m sure.

The course “Biodiversity and Global Change: Science and Action” is an offering from the University of Zurich on Coursera – an interesting overview of the biodiversity on planet Earth, the field of biodiversity science and some of the actions we can take to help protect biodiversity. As part of the final week of the course, I was challenged to be a Biodiversity Ambassador. What does that mean, and how did I tackle this assignment?

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Mountains 101: an online course

Hi everyone,

I’m working my way through an excellent free course on the coursera website, “Mountains 101” from the University of Alberta. It’s an interdisciplinary MOOC delving into the history, geology, ecology and even the cultural significance of mountains. Here are the key facts:

Mountains 101
Time requirement: 12 weeks of study, 3 – 5 hours/week
Language: English
User Ratings: Average User Rating 4.7
Cost: Free, with the option to pay for a certificate (45.00 EUR according to mooc-list.com)

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Learning about different types of mountain through the course.

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The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon

The Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was once the most adbundant bird in North America, possibly in the world. Humans hunted them on a massive scale in the 1800s, and they were driven to extinction in the early 1900s. Have we learnt anything from the plight of the passenger pigeon?

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Painting of a male passenger pigeon (Wikipedia)

A course about conservation

I’ve been taking the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Introducing Conservation” offered by United for Wildlife. United for Wildlife is a collaboration between seven big conservation organisations, and has the Duke of Cambridge as President. Their course aims to educate people all over the world about conservation, and encourages people to get involved themselves. I’m always keen to expand or refresh my knowledge, especially when there are certificates to reward the worthy! I’m currently working through Lesson 1: Life on Earth, and one of the exercises asked me to write briefly about an extinction from the last 500 years. I chose to write about the Passenger Pigeon, a dramatic example of human-caused extinction due to both the huge numbers involved and the short timescale over which it occurred.

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Forests and Humans MOOC

I recently completed the course “Forests and Humans: From the Midwest to Madagascar“, a free online course from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This ran from September 30th til October 28th, on the coursera.org website.

I’ve taken a number of online courses before‎, using the coursera platform. This offering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison was shorter in duration than some (running over four weeks), but was packed full of information including video lectures, interviews, scientific journals and more. Whilst no stranger to forests – I already had a grounding in the subject through my undergraduate degree and my work as a Ranger – the course added a lot to my knowledge. It gave a global context for forests, covering forest ecosystems around the world in the first week. It then delved into the value of forests to humans, our effects on forests, threats to forest habitats and biodiversity, and some of the possible solutions for preserving forests into the future.

Each week of the course (a “module”) included activities, and I thought this element worked really well. For example, Week 4 had us watching a video, and reading, about protecting forests for carbon offsetting, then posting our views in the discussion forums on using forests and owning carbon. Each week also included a quiz, which one needs to pass at 75% or higher to get a Statement of Accomplishment at the end of the course. Although this course was shorter than some of the others I have undertaken, the quizes were rigorous and had me wracking my brain on a number of occasions. I took this as a good thing, because testing is a useful part of learning and actually improves our recall and understanding of a topic. With two attempts allowed on each quiz, if you take the time to work through all parts of the module (and perhaps revisit some of the harder parts in between attempts), it is still very possible to get a passing score on the quizes.‎ I have a Statement of Accomplishment to prove it!

Overall, I really enjoyed this course. It was a great opportunity to expand on my knowledge of forests, putting my work in UK forests into a global context. I also got to talk to people in other parts of the world, and learn from them about their forests and the threats and conservation efforts therein. I think the course could be improved by developing on this aspect; perhaps some of the activities could involve working collaboratively with a peer.