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Weeks 10-11: Quadrats & Questionable Driving

Posted: Tuesday 16th December 2014 by OliFoulds

Wildflower Meadows, Derbyshire A good challenge for my first NVC survey, Oli Foulds

WARNING: being able to identify species is surprisingly rewarding and worryingly addictive.

What I did:

  • Helped to dig in badger traps at Edale for the next round of vaccinations
  • Assisted with a National Vegetation Classification (NVC) survey
  • Was given training in Recorder, the software used to store Derbyshire’s wildlife records
  • Researched landowner information and contacted landowners for Local Wildlife Sites in South Derbyshire that need surveying
  • Attended a tree identification and veteran tree surveying course

“I don’t know what that is… but I reckon it’s some kind of geranium. Those leaves are weird though. Where did I see that other one? In the woods. Was it the same as this? I don’t think it’s as hairy…” What has happened to my zoologist brain? This is the kind of thought process I regularly get when I’m on a walk now. Four months ago it would have been “I don’t know what that is… but I reckon I should go home and look for a job.”

It wasn’t until I was learning how to perform an NVC (National Vegetation Classification) survey that it dawned on me how many plant species I’ve learnt in the last couple of months. NVC surveys follow a stricter and more complicated method than the surveys I mentioned before. Rather than just writing a list of all the species and estimating how abundant they are in the habitat an NVC survey requires you to distribute quadrats and record the percentage cover of each species within each quadrat. Staring down into my first quadrat with a blank sheet of paper I realised I could actually identify more than half of the species in the 2m x 2m square by my feet. Ten weeks ago I would have written “grass, dandelions and other green leaves” but now I could pick out three or four different grasses and a whole load of other species hidden within this grassy sward. Not only that, I was also seeing a few plants I was expecting to see… The more habitats you see and species you identify, the more you begin to notice the connections between certain plants and certain types of land.

WARNING: being able to identify species is surprisingly rewarding and worryingly addictive. In fact I actually can’t stop identifying things. Car journeys and train rides are now just a long-range, speed ID test and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be like this for the rest of my life… which might not be very long if I keep trying to identify trees growing by the motorway.

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