Friday, 13 July 2012

Middlesbrough - Meeting the EMS management team.

Wow, what a fantastic day yesterday was and, to be perfectly honest, I was completely bricking it. Me, meeting new people, talking about something I'm not all 100% sure on... It's normally a recipe for disaster but hey, maybe I'm changing... For the good.

I went to Middlesbrough to meet with the new EMS project officer, Maeve, to discuss the direction of my project placement with Natural England/ INCA/ RSPB and meet with the EMS management team for a meeting. Can you see why I was nervous?!

After a pretty hectic morning (early start/ delays at the train station and a not-so-brilliant coffee) I arrived in Middlesbrough, hopped in Maeve's car and after a quick introduction/ hellos we were on our way towards the INCA offices on the Wilton International site. As with all industrial sites (especially those that concern chemicals - eep), an induction had to be done which in involved watching a fabulous little video telling me about the various alarms that can go off. Now, which one means run and which one means take cover/ block all windows?! I guess I won't be too helpful in an emergency then...

After the induction and a quick photo I was presented with my day-pass (what a shame, I had to hand it back in at the end of the day), and my little card that says I've watched the video - hurrah! Now I mustn't lose it ;-) We had a drive round to the INCA offices where I met two of the team; Robert, one of the conservation officers who made me a lovely cup of tea (thank you!) and the director, Bob who I had heard a lot about. As there had been an issue with health and safety (long story and not really that interesting so I won't bore you with it). We went over the risk assessments, signed some documents and went over a few things to pass onto my York-based supervisor, and then left to return back to the computer to go over the project.


I'm really excited to get stuck in now, especially since I kind of know what I'm doing... Instead of producing two reports at the end (one for the university and one for the company), I'm producing one main report for the university and submitting it to the company also, and then just making up a series of recommendations in a separate non-scientific report for them - that works out better since I'd seen an example report and it was a good 100 pages long. I know a majority of those were from figures and tables (as mine would be in a way) but 100 was a little excessive. Anyway, from my terms of reference that I devised last week (and I'm actually pretty proud of it) we've agreed on some main objectives:-

  1. Produce a map highlighting hotspots of bird usage (both abundance and behaviour - foraging or roosting).
  2. Produce a map highlighting recreational activities
  3. Map bird disturbance from each individual site (6 sites in total) with respect to the main anthropogenic recreational activities which will indicate problem areas.
 Statistical analyses (using R project)
  1. Which anthropogenic causes the most disturbance to birds
  2. Does anthropogenic disturbance appear to affect bird numbers/community composition and/or bird distribution at particular sites.
  3. Do disturbance levels differ with tide height, habitat type and day of the week (latter may not be included, it depends on the data set).
  4. At what times are recreational activities most apparent?
Essentially the main aim is to produce a series of site-specific recommendations with regards to the results - i.e. how are species effected, what are the grounds utilised for (with respect to both bird activity and human activity). I can also pinpoint which parts of the data collection need refining for statistical analysis - i.e. consistency - so that the methodology can be updated in the future.

Anyway, the EMS meeting was starting at 2pm and so we left around 1pm for the RSPB centre in Saltholme. I really liked it there despite the mass of industry around it. It was so very odd that the birdlife in this reserve can flourish with so much going on around it. Peculiar, but interesting.

The visitor centre, image from

I had a little giggle as we walked up to the centre for whoever designed the signage had a sense of humour. It isn't my photo (I forgot to take one!) but it has definitely left an imprint on my mind (and hopefully other's too). I think this method of making a negative more positive is really effective at getting people to listen and pay attention.

Image by Lepista [Flickr]
 The meeting was an eye opener and I'm so very happy that I went a long to it and can't wait for the next one in September (which I am contributing to, eek). There were various representatives from different companies there. Off the top of my head there was:
  • Natural England
  • INCA
  • RSPB
  • MMO
  • (Eastern?) IFCAs 
  • Environment Agency
  • PD Ports
It was really interesting to hear various projects being undertaken and the problems being faced or their progress. It has made me realise that there really isn't a simple one-size-fits-all solution (which I guess I knew anyway, but this has just verified it completely) and that the issues surrounding environmental management (of any ecosystem) are so multi-faceted that they require input from all of the major key players. All of them. Without this communication (and appropriate funding unfortunately), it's unlikely that there will be any success in the long-term.

This whole experience, meeting people from various companies, having a little input (well, talking about the project and hearing recommendations), having people genuinely interested in what's going on (and wanting information prior to the final report) has made me really happy that I've chosen this project. It has also made me realise that this is definitely the path I want to take, integrating it with the research side of things and liaising with contacts to attempt to come up with the perfect solution.

That concludes my day anyway, and now I need to go and completely rehash this CV and formulate some fantastic application for the perfect job in September (for me, anyway). I just hope that they see a little sparkle and go, "she's the girl for us".

Fingers crossed!