Going to Bat for Bioacoustics: How Acoustic Monitoring is Helping to Save Bats – Webinar Round-up

Recently, Wildlife Acoustics and Bat Conservation International partnered together to host a webinar highlighting the use of bioacoustics in bat conservation across the globe. The webinar featured three case studies tackling the impacts of white-nose syndrome, habitat loss and climate change with the help of bioacoustic technology. Here, we provide a summary of these case studies and the applications of acoustic monitoring in these investigations. 


Florida USA, Dr. Melquisedec Gamba-Rios 

Endemic to the region, the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus) is increasingly threatened by habitat loss from sea level rise and destructive development. This species has one of the smallest ranges in Southern Florida and utilises old tree cavities and large, open spaces for roosting and feeding. Dr. Gamba-Rios and his team sought to identify critical habitat for this endangered species using bioacoustics, hoping to support their fragile populations.  

The team used acoustic recorders to identify key roosting and feeding areas for the species. Interestingly, they found that Miami’s zoo, golf courses and tropical parks had high numbers of Florida Bonneted Bat calls. The research showed that the large, open areas surrounded by forest and absence of artificial light of these locations provided an ideal foraging space for the species. 

Since these bats require older, cavitied trees, the habitat of the group is at risk as development increases. Plans for water park construction were proposed on a key site for this species, however the evidence gathered here was used to challenge the proposal, resulting in its rejection to protect key bat habitat. In March 2024, over 1.1 million acres of critical habitat were designated for the species in Florida, including foraging areas in urban habitat and over 4,000 acres of Miami Pine Rocklands. Federally protected species are known to be twice as likely to move toward recovery than those without protection, so the designation of these spaces is incredibly important in securing the future of this species.  

Shows a small brown bat with closed eyes, it is held in a blue blanket in daylight
Florida Bonneted Bat by Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr

Nyungwe National Park, Dr. Jon Flanders 

Last seen in 1981, the Hill’s Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hilli) was considered a ‘lost’ species in Rwanda.  In January 2019, a group of scientists and researchers, including Dr. Jon Flanders, set out on a 10-day expedition in Nyungwe National Park, looking to rediscover this elusive animal.  

Nyungwe National Park rangers played a key role in the early stages of this project, identifying caves and key habitat for bats in the area. The rangers conducted acoustic monitoring using SM4 Acoustics to identify foraging and roosting areas, collecting over 260,000 files of acoustic data. Eight of these recordings successfully detected the calls of the Hill’s Horseshoe Bat, found in small, defined ranges. During the 10-day trip, the team worked relentlessly to catch, measure and collect DNA samples from bats using mist nets and harp traps in these locations. The team successfully captured two Hill’s Horseshoe Bats and confirmed the capture of this critically endangered species with museum archive specimens. The expedition highlighted the spectacular diversity of Nyungwe National Park which features a large number of rare and endemic species, and these findings reinforce the parks importance as a biodiversity hotspot.

A brown bat is hanging upside down. it has white fluffy mould covering its wings and face
Little Brown Bat with white-nose syndrome by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr

White-nose Syndrome, Dr. Amanda Adams 

White-nose syndrome is a cold-loving, infectious fungal disease found in bats. The fungus manifests in a total skin infection, most visible around the muzzle of the animal. This infection is responsible for significant mortality in several species, where the infection causes bats to wake often during hibernation – burning their fat stores, causing dehydration and starvation. Infected bats can expend up to twice the amount of energy as healthy individuals during hibernation, severely impacting their ability to survive the winter. Because of this, six million animals have succumbed to this infection so far, impacting 12 out of 44 species found in the USA.  

Dr. Amanda Adams sought to use bioacoustics to enhance the management of foraging habitat to support these species through hibernation. The team used the Song meter mini to search for the presence of bats and observe their feeding behaviours. They found that feeding behaviours were observed up to three times more in prey patches, and this allowed researchers to designate feeding habitats for affected species. The survey will be used to inform vegetative management on passing corridors, aiming to increase the productivity of foraging areas to support the health of infected bats.  


The Going to Bat for Bioacoustics webinar provided an engaging insight into the applications of acoustic monitoring in bat research, showing how the technology can be used to support bat conservation. To learn more, the Wildlife Acoustics website has a range of training courses and webinars. Upcoming events can be found here 

 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 1st July

Environment 

An ocean-dwelling fungus has been found to break down marine plastic pollutionParengyodontium album has recently been added to the list of four species of plastic degrading fungi. Researchers have discovered the fungus’ ability to degrade polyethylene plastic, the most abundant form of plastic in our oceans, following a period of exposure to UV radiation from sunlight. It is estimated that the fungus can break down polyethylene at a rate of 0.05% each day, and with over 400bn kilograms of plastic produced annually, this discovery has the potential to provide an answer to the problem of marine plastic pollution.

Image by Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument via Flickr

A recently launched programme will aim to restore a 193km stretch of coral reef. Named ‘Ako’ako’a, the project will be one of the first to attempt such large-scale restoration and will focus this effort on the west coast of Hawai’i Island. Due to start in 2025, researchers will identify individuals with desirable traits in the face of climate change, such as high thermal tolerance, fast growth and tolerance to pollution. These selected individuals will then be used to produce larvae with strengthened genetic resistance which will be released during natural spawning periods. With increasing declines occurring over more frequent bleaching events, ‘Ako’ako’a aims to restore ailing reefs across the region.  

 

Conservation 

Canada is set to ban open-net salmon farming in British Columbia in five years. The announcement follows the government’s decision to transition to closed-containment methods in 2019. With more than half of wild salmon stocks declining in the province, the decision has been made to make a step towards protecting wild pacific salmon populations through sustainable aquaculture and clean technology. The commitment has been praised by many, but there are concerns for significant losses in a $1.2bn industry and disruptions impacting up to 6,000 jobs.  

Iberian Lynx are no longer endangered under the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesLynx pardinus has been promoted to ‘vulnerable’, a triumph resulting from a 20-year conservation programme by the EU, national governments in Spain and Portugal and wildlife NGOs. The population initially plummeted to under 100 individuals due to human persecution, reduced food sources and habitat loss across the region. Now, 20 years later, the population has reached over 2,000 in the peninsula. Over 86% of the current population resides in Spain and experts expect to see a full recovery in its native range over the next century. 

A pale rhino laying down on a bed of grass next to a tree
Northern White Rhino by Heather Paul via Flickr

Scientists have successfully implanted a rhinoceros embryo using IVF techniques for the first time. This breakthrough could prove to be a lifeline in saving the Northern White Rhinoceros from extinction. There are only two surviving females in the world, both based in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where they are under 24-hour guard. Proving the feasibility of the technology, researchers can now move to transferring a Northern White Rhinoceros embryo into a surrogate Southern White Rhinoceros. This technology brings the scientific community closer to successfully reproducing this critically endangered species, which would significantly benefit the ecosystem of central and eastern Africa.  

 

Wildlife 

The first Scottish Wildcat kittens born outside of captivity have been recorded in Cairngorms national park. Their birth follows the reintroduction of 19 adult wildcats last summer and has been confirmed using camera trap footage. This discovery marks an important milestone in the efforts to reintroduce the species to Scotland, and they are the first to be born in the wild for more than five years. With significant population declines due to habitat loss and human persecution, this success story is an important turning point for the species and will help to reverse centuries of decline.

A scottish wildcat walking across a fallen tree in the woods
Scottish Wildcat by Chris Parker via Flickr

A subgroup of Gray Whales has undergone a significant decline in body length in the past 20-30 years. The Pacific Coast Feeding Group (PCFG), consisting of around 200 individuals, have decreased in size over the past 20-30 years. Researchers found that the group is 13% smaller than those born before 2000, which equates to around 1.65 metres lost in a mature adult. This smaller size could have significant consequences for the health and fecundity of the group, impacting survival rates of calves and their ability to store energy for growth and maintenance.

Solitary Bee Week 2024

Solitary Bee Week was founded in 2018 to raise awareness of the importance of solitary bee populations across the globe. Now hosted by Buglife, this week-long event hopes to encourage the public to pledge their support for these unsung heroes. Solitary Bee Week 2024 (Monday 1st July – Sunday 7th July) gives us a chance to support these vital pollinators and #EarnYourStripes. 

A hairy mining bee resting on a leaf. It has orange hair on its hind legs and long white hair on its thorax, legs and head
Andrena gravida by Frank Vassen via Flickr

What are solitary bees and why are they important? 

It is estimated that there are between 20,000–30,000 solitary bee species across the world, and the UK is home to 240 of them. Solitary bees do not produce wax or honey, do not form hives, and do not exhibit swarming behaviours – a striking difference to the behaviours we usually associate with bees. They typically nest in underground burrows or in the hollows of plant stems and tunnels, so it is no surprise that we are seeing a downturn in the abundance of the group with increasing urban development and environmental decline.  

As we urbanise, we remove the habitat of these extraordinary pollinators – we are seeing fewer hedgerows and wildflower meadows, which would otherwise provide vital food sources for these insects. Partnered with agricultural intensification, environmental changes are contributing to the significant declines we see in pollinators. Solitary bees are important for pollination, and their loss could be devastating not only to the environment, but for food security worldwide. Solitary Bee Week is helping raise awareness of these insects in the hopes of managing their threats and preventing further declines in the future. 

 

Image by Buglife

 

How can I take part? 

From pollinator identification workshops to solitary bee walks, Buglife is hosting a range of events in support of Solitary Bee Week. An interesting highlight of the week, Buglife have collaborated with Hayley Herridge the Pollinator Gardener to create the ‘B-Lines Garden’ to be featured in the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival – highlighting the importance of insect pathways to provide corridors for pollinators. Find the full week’s itinerary here 

 

What can I do to support my local bees? 

Solitary Bee Week is the perfect time to pledge your support for local solitary bees.  

Leaving an area of exposed soil and providing bee hotels are great ways to provide nesting areas. Mining bees account for around 70% of solitary species – patches of exposed soil are an excellent way to provide space for this group, where they create underground nesting burrows. For cavity nesting bees, such as Red Mason Bees, hotels are a great way to provide nesting habitat where they will lay eggs in the dry, hollow tubes. Planting wildflowers and nectar-rich plant species is another way to support pollinators by providing an important food source. 

Here we have chosen a selection of products in our range that can support solitary bees in your outdoor space: 

#262715 Solitary Bee Bricks  

 

#217363 Insect Tower 

 

#257245 Solitary Bee Nesting Tin 

 

 

#264931 Bee Barn Gift Box 

 

#259552 Solitary Bees (Hardback) 

#261456 Hairy-Foot, Long-Tongue (Paperback) 

 

#244919 The Solitary Bees (Hardback) 


 

Top 5: Trail Cameras

Trail cameras can be extremely useful tools for ecologists and naturalists, enabling simple non-invasive monitoring of wildlife. Here we feature five of our most popular models, highlighting the key features of each for easy comparison. 

For more detailed information please read our Trail Cameras Buyers Guide. 


#256294 Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5  

Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5 trail camera

A good quality trail camera with fast trigger speed, this model is an excellent all-rounder.

Image quality: 24 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.1-0.7 seconds
Recovery: 0.5 seconds
Flash range: 30 metres
Detection range: 24 metres
RADIANT 5 illumination technology

 

#258744 Spypoint Flex 

#258744 Spypoint Flex trail camera

An innovative low-glow trail camera with cellular transmission to transfer images to a mobile device.

Image quality: 33 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 15 seconds
Glow: Low glow
Trigger speed: 0.3 seconds
Flash range: 30 metres
Detection range: 30 metres

 

 

#259714 Num’axes PIE1059 Trail Camera

Cost-effective and entry-level, the Num’axes PIE1059 is a robust, no-glow trail camera with great resolution.

Image quality: 32 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 30 seconds
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.6 seconds
Flash range: 20 metres
Detection range: 20 metres
2″ colour screen

 

 

#256293 Browning Recon Force Elite HP5

A low-glow alternative to the Browning Spec Ops Elite HP5. This camera is a good all-rounder and is suitable for fast-moving animals.

Image quality: 24 mp
Video quality: 1920 x 1080p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: Low glow
Trigger speed: 0.1-0.7 seconds
Recovery: 0.5 seconds
Flash range: 39 metres
Detection range: 30 metres
RADIANT 5 illumination technology

 

#246930 Spypoint Solar-Dark Trail Camera

A super fast, no-glow model, this trail camera features a solar panel providing users with an extended battery life.

Image quality: 12 mp
Video quality: 1280 x 720p
Video length: Max 2 minutes
Glow: No glow
Trigger speed: 0.07 seconds
Flash range: 27 metres
Detection range: up to 33.5m
2″ colour screen

 

 

 


Recommended Reading:

#222466 Camera Trapping for Wildlife Research  

Paperback | June 2016

A guide to the use of camera trapping for most common ecological applications to wildlife research.

 

 

#227479 CCTV for Wildlife Monitoring 

Paperback | June 2016

A handbook on the use of CCTV in nature watching, conservation and ecological research.

 

Restore Nature Now 2024

The Restore Nature Now March took place in Central London on Saturday 22nd June. The march saw the coming together of over 350 charities, businesses and direct-action groups calling on the government to work harder to protect biodiversity in the UK and Restore Nature Now!  Some of the NHBS team travelled up from Devon and joined the estimated 100,000 people that took part in the march. 


 

‘The Restore Nature Now march felt really galvanizing. It was heartening to walk with so many ecologists, scientists and activists and to dip into conversations about the amazing work people are participating in around the country to lead and assist in nature recovery. I was really moved by the impassioned speeches in parliament square from a host of brilliant speakers, and the sight of three peregrine falcons over Westminster was a potent and magical moment too!’ – Oli

 

A large puppet bat held by a crowd.
A large bat puppet made by the Bat Conservation Trust.
A vibrant banner to stand up for nature.

 

‘It felt great to be a part of the march and join so many other people passionate about our nature and wildlife.  The speakers at Parliament Square were inspirational, sadly I’m not sure if our politicians heard them, but we will be back and continue to be a voice for nature.’ Adam

An estimated 100,000 took part in the march.
The march was supported by a range of nature-focused organisations including RSPB, Plantlife and WWF.
The family-friendly march had lots of entertainment and interactive activities.

WHY DID THE DEMONSTRATION TAKE PLACE? 

Restore Nature Now took place to call on political parties to act on the climate crisis and use the upcoming general election as a turning point. Their demands are as follows: 

A PAY RISE FOR NATURE: To facilitate nature recovery, agricultural landowners need more support to make climate-friendly choices, and to do this, Restore Nature Now urged the UK government to double the nature and climate-friendly farming budget.  

MAKE POLLUTERS PAY: Big business significantly contributes to environmental decline and the climate crisis, and to tackle this, organisers asked for new rules and regulations to be introduced to enforce greater contributions.  

MORE SPACE FOR NATURE: Restore Nature Now campaigned for the expansion and improvement of protected areas and called for an improvement of public land and national parks to make a greater contribution to nature recovery. 

A RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT: Calling for the creation of an Environmental Rights Bill, organisers are looking for the UK Government to drive better nature decisions to improve public health. 

FAIR AND EFFECTIVE CLIMATE ACTION: To solve the climate crisis, and in turn save nature, more investment is required into effective climate action. 


Restore Nature Now was a fantastic demonstration of hope and a call to action for the UK government. Our staff had an enlightening experience and thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment and talks throughout the day.  

This Week in Biodiversity News – 17th June

Climate Crisis 

Wildfires are threatening the unique ecosystems of Brazil’s tropical wetlands. The Pantanal encompasses the world’s largest tropical wetland and contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The wildfire season has arrived earlier than normal – state climate experts, and has already destroyed 32,000 hectares of land. Since the start of 2024, there have been over 1,300 recorded wildfires, and as the region moves into the dry season, dry winds and reduced rainfall increase the risk of further environmental deterioration. Brazil’s federal government has announced that it will be working with other state governments to combat the fires, emphasising preventative measures for these disasters.  

Specialist pollinators in the tropical rainforests of South America are under threat from land use change. A study revisiting historic data on the baseline diversity of orchid bees in Brazil found that deforestation and intensifying agriculture has caused significant disruption in the abundance and diversity of the group. Important both economically and ecologically, this vibrant group are key pollinators of over 30 plant families in the region and play a vital role in agriculture. In 1997, Brazil was considered one of the most diverse regions for orchid bees across the globe, but this changed with significant losses of tree cover. Their loss is part of a broader picture of the Amazon’s native pollinators, and without them, agriculture and natural ecosystems could collapse. This study highlights the need for regular monitoring, allowing us to observe the impacts of destruction more clearly. 

A forest burning under wildfire
Wildfires are increasing in severity and frequency across the planet. Image by Thibaud Moritz

Exposure to toxic particles from wildfires has led to the death of over 50,000 Californians in a decade. The first study to quantify long-term impacts of chronic exposure to PM2.5 from wildfires, found that over 52,000 premature deaths were attributed to exposure and over $432 billion was spent on wildfire smoke-related health expenses from 2008–2018. PM2.5 microscopic particles can bury into lung tissue before entering the blood stream – they are associated with various health conditions and can cause heart attacks, premature birth and early death. The study has conjured a call to action for forest management and mitigation of climate change.   

Conservation 

After an absence of around 200 years, a small group of the world’s last truly-wild horses have been translocated to Kazakhstan. Seven Przewalskis’s Horses, one stallion and six mares, have been translocated from zoos in Prague and Berlin. Historically part of steppe grasslands in central Asia over 5,000 years ago, these animals have returned to their native Kazakhstan to improve the biodiversity of the landscape. Their dung can spread seeds and fertilise the land, and foraging behaviours can encourage water absorption in the soil. This translocation is part of a plan to relocate 40 horses to the region over the next five years. This follows a similar project undertaken in Mongolia, with nine flights of Przewalski’s Horses relocated with great success – there are now over 1,500 wild horses in the region with a stable population.  

Przewalkski’s Horses are returning to Kazakhstan after 200 years. Image by Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr.

A new tool has been developed which allows conservationists to forecast coral disease. Led by the University of Hawai’i, researchers have developed an ecological forecasting technology using environmental indicators to better predict disease outbreaks in coral. This allows conservationists to intervene at the appropriate time, improving conservation outcomes for affected coral species. Coral species are increasingly threatened by pollution, human impact and climate change, yet we depend on coral-based ecosystems for many things, including medicine and coastal protection from storms and erosion. The use of ecological forecasts could prove to be critical in conserving and managing marine ecosystems, ensuring environmental resilience in the face of climate change. 

Wildlife 

Australia’s foxes are contributing to devastating declines of freshwater turtle populations across the country. It is estimated that 1.7 million foxes kill around 300 million native Australian animals a year, including reptiles, and have been consuming entire nests of turtle eggs and reproductive females. The Eastern Long-necked Turtle, the most common species along the Murray River, has experienced 90% declines since 1980. Nearly half of all freshwater turtle species are listed as threatened in at least one state in Australia, and with foxes found in over 80% of the mainland, the threats to the species are mounting. To counteract these pressures, the 1 Million Turtles scheme is hoping to hatch one million eggs, eventually returning the turtles to the water while overcoming data gaps for the group. The scheme is also looking at preventative measures through the construction of fox proof fences and artificial islands.  

African Elephant
Elephants have been found to call each other by name. Image by Mandy Goldberg via Flickr

Research has shown that elephants call each other by name. This is the first recorded example of naming in wild animals that does not involve imitation, as seen with parrots and dolphins. Researchers have used AI to analyse the vocalisations of two wild herds in Kenya, identifying over 400 distinct calls. The study found that the herds were using specific sounds to address an individual, and were able to recognise and react to calls addressed to them, even reacting positively to calls from family members. Names were more commonly used by adults and were typically used over long distance or when addressing young elephants. There have been calls for further research, but this study suggests that elephants may have the ability for abstract thought.  

Supplier interview with Unitura

Unitura are experts in nature-inclusive construction and renovation who provide off-the-shelf solutions to projects that require roosting and habitat mitigation. They are involved in the design and manufacture of their own product lines, including bat boxes, bird boxes and insect hotels. They are specialists in green architecture in the form of green roofs or facades and provide bespoke services for nature inclusivity projects. 

We recently had the opportunity to talk to the founders of Unitura, Sicco, Robert-Jan and Henk, about the company, their product range, what they hope for the future of the business and more. 

Photo of the three Unitura founders stood in their warehouse by a bat box.


Firstly, can you tell us about what inspired the establishment of Unitura?  

The founding of Unitura stemmed from our shared interests. Prior to founding Unitura, Sicco and Henk were already engaged in providing ecological advice, while Robert Jan was primarily involved in the building sector. During a casual gathering, we brainstormed and landed on the concept of bat boxes. At that time, there was limited knowledge about such products in the market, presenting us with an intriguing challenge. 

We started out quite simply – making and painting bat boxes in a small, rented office in a farmhouse. During the week, we focused on consultancy work and at the weekend we focused on producing bat boxes. We noticed that more was possible than just bat boxes and started to expand our range. It was no longer just about bats, but a complete range of in-field, nature-inclusive building. 

Unitura warehouse with bat boxes laid out on a table.

How has the idea of nature-inclusive building been received since the company was founded, and how important do you think this is for the future of the planet?  

Since our company was founded, the idea of nature-inclusive building has mainly been driven by legislation. However, we are now seeing a shift where it is becoming more of an integral part of construction projects and people are recognising its broader importance. We expect that in the future, it will become a standard component in the construction industry, particularly in the Netherlands where we see nature-inclusive building gaining more traction. 

A few years ago, green buildings were rare, but now architects are increasingly incorporating them into their designs. This rapid development in the Netherlands is due to both political and corporate recognition of its urgency. Governments are implementing more regulations and companies are eager to adapt to these changes. 

You have a very wide range of products on offer, from nest boxes, insect hotel and seeds, to equipment needed to create live, biodiverse green roofs. Can you tell us a bit more about your bestselling products?  

Our best-selling products are the wood-concrete built-in facilities for birds and bats. Our range includes an extensive series of modular bat boxes that can be endlessly expanded and exchanged. This allows you to put together your bat boxes according to your own wishes. These boxes are specifically designed for bats that live in buildings. We also offer various built-in facilities for birds, including swifts and House Sparrows, which can be easily integrated into the masonry. 

Three swifts flying into a swift box.

How did the introduction of the Nature Conservation Act in 2017 affect the design and manufacturing of your products?  

The introduction of the Nature Conservation Act in

 2017 likely impacted the design and production of our products. Similar legislation already existed in the Netherlands prior to this. At the moment, according to Dutch law, it is mandatory to conduct ecological research on protected species and their habitats before construction activities can commence. As a solution, a Species Management Plan (SMP) is now in place. An SMP outlines the protected species present in an area and the threats they face, whether across the entire municipality, in specific neighbourhoods, or within areas earmarked for significant sustainability or construction activities. It also describes the actions needed to protect, restore, or even increase the population of species. 

For our company, this may entail adjusting our designs and manufacturing processes to comply with the regulations set forth in the SMP. For instance, in the insulation industry, our designs must account for specific insulation values to ensure that our product is suitable for use in various construction projects, such as installing nest-boxes in cavity walls.

I think the live, biodiverse roofs and building facades that you create are a fantastic idea and look stunning, however they are sadly quite uncommon here in the UK. Can you talk us through how you create them, why they should be used instead of a flat roof and how they benefit the environment?  

Our green roofs offer various benefits, including reducing heat stress, significant water buffering capacity and CO2 reduction – they are also well-suited for renovation, as they are made with cassettes (HDPE units containing pre-cultivated wildflowers and herbs used to make green roofing). Within these cassettes, we use native species that contribute to promoting biodiversity and support local flora and fauna. 

The process begins with the manufacturing of cassettes, which are then placed on the roof. These cassettes are produced by specialised nurseries and contain a substrate in which we sow native seeds from our partner organisation, De Bolderik. After approximately 12 weeks, the cassettes are ready to be installed on the roof. 

Photograph of a Unitura living roof on top of one of their company buildings.

Do you have any new products on the horizon that you can tell us about?  

We continuously work on developing new products. We recently launched a new sensor specifically designed for detecting incoming and outgoing bats. With an active lifespan of two years, this sensor enables long-term monitoring. Users can easily view and download the sensor results via the companion app.  

What is the hope for the future of Unitura? 

Our aim is to broaden our model into a complete supplier of nature-inclusive solutions, integrating green elements such as green facades and green roofs. Moreover, we are firmly committed to expanding our presence in the international market. We are curious what the future will bring us! 


Unitura Modular bat tubes.

Unitura Modular Bat Tubes

This modular bat tube from Unitura is a highly versatile built-in solution for bat mitigation and integration into a wall. Each tube has a single or multiple large crevices with a sloped entrance hole to accommodate bats leaving and entering the site and promote the runoff of water away from the interior of the tube. The tubes come in single, double and triple crevice layers and with/without an entryway. They can be mixed and matched completely depending on the design specification of the build and built as large or as small as needed.

Unitura tall external bat box.Unitura Tall External Bat Box

This single crevice external bat box from Unitura provides a suitable and durable roost for crevice-dwelling bat species. Made from thermally stable and resilient woodconcrete this bat box can be mounted to any external walls where a roost may be needed. MULTI-MONTI fixings are included and are designed to be used without a Rawl plug. The screw anchor is approved for installation in cracked and uncracked concrete, as well as a whole range of other building materials.

Unitura External Swift Box.

Unitura External Swift Box

This external single-cavity swift box has been designed as a long-lasting nest box for swifts. Constructed from woodconcrete this swift box has a sloping roof to provide drainage and prevent dirt streaks from forming on the external wall. These boxes come with all the required fixings and an instruction card for easy assembly.

Soffit and Fascia Swift Box.Soffit and Fascia Swift Box

These under-eaves swift nest boxes are a subtle and attractive way of providing swifts roosting opportunities in your eaves and soffits while remaining durable and secure for both the home and birds. The roost is made of both a wooden concrete entrance stone and an FSC plywood box, with ideally only the entrance stone being exposed to the elements, improving the durability and longevity of the box. The box is designed to be mounted in multiple directions depending on the angle of mounting and the shape and angle of the soffit/fascia.

Unitura Little Owl Box.

Unitura Little Owl Box

Designed to provide a secure nesting solution for Little Owls, whilst excluding unwanted species, this nestbox has an entryway vestibule to help discourage Stone Martens, a large open nesting space with a removable roof and drainage/ventilation holes in the base.

Wilder Sensing: An Interview with Geoff Carss

Wilder Sensing, founded in 2021, is bringing innovative techniques to conservation, providing additional insights into biodiversity. This promising tech start-up featured on Springwatch this Wednesday (12th June), showcasing the applications of this innovation. We had the opportunity to chat with Geoff Carss, CEO of Wilder Sensing, on the organisation, its role in conservation and the future of technology in the field.


Can you share with us why Wilder Sensing was founded and what the company is involved in? 

Wilder Sensing was founded to ensure that anyone can collect high-quality, long-term biodiversity data. There are many different ways of doing this, but we focus on sound. By recording 24/7 for weeks, or even months, you can build up a very rich picture of what is present in an environment. The technology we use is low-cost with limited bias, and it is easy to use, even for non-professionals. It’s not perfect, especially because we are focusing on birds at the moment. Not all birds make much noise – some make very subtle noises which we can’t pick up – but for most species it works well. 

Can you tell us about the capabilities of Wilder Sensing technology and the insights that it can provide for a given environment?

We work with our customers to agree on survey patterns and how many recorders should be deployed on each site. The customer uploads their audio files to our website, and once they have arrived, we automatically process them using machine learning. It takes us around 20 seconds to process an hour-long file, and we can process many in parallel. During this, the technology checks every three seconds to see if a sound has been detected – every sound gets a species match, and a probability is assigned. So, for instance, the technology will be 92% certain that it has detected a Robin. Through this, we can give a species richness assessment, which is a species list at the moment. Our technology is currently unable to tell us how many individuals there are in a given space – there could be one very noisy bird, or ten very quiet ones.   

However, bioacoustic surveying technology does not remove the need for ground truthing. It is still important to get the baseline. Ecologists will find species that we don’t pick up. And the converse is true as well. We can find 20-30% more species when combining acoustic and traditional surveys. We are also working on other approaches for the future, like triangulation, which could identify exactly where a sound is coming from. 

Over 45,000 records were species-matched in the Peruvian Amazon. Image by Wilder Sensing.Can you tell us about the current projects that you are involved in and the role that bioacoustics played in conservation?  

We’re involved with a whole raft of different projects. We are working with environmental consultancies, Wildlife Trusts and NGO’s using acoustic technology for long-term surveying. Wendling Beck in Norfolk is a site that we have been working on for around 18 months. We realised that Skylarks are using one small part of the site, but you don’t see this until you look at the data – when you are just walking around, you don’t make that connection. If you look at some species, you might think that you have a ubiquitous habitat, but when you start looking at the distribution of birds and their calls, you may find that there are many times more calls in one part of the site. If you were to redevelop an area, you would probably lose some species altogether, but going into a development project, knowing that’s a likely ecological consequence, is really important and that is why acoustic technology is so valuable. 

What is the future for AI in conservation? Where do you think its applications could take us over the coming years??

I think it has a lot to contribute. To get good, accurate data you need highly skilled ecologists, people that really understand bird sound – it takes years to build those skills. I think the role will change so that ecologists will get more involved in survey design and interpreting the data to understand the consequences of a project. It becomes much more evidence-based and more quantitative. We have some customers who deploy up to 20 recorders, and you can get a quarter of a million acoustic records on each device. With that amount of data, you can start to ask different questions and we can see all kinds of behaviours that we couldn’t see before.   

In the South-west, some farmland was purchased to develop into allotments and after digging, they found that Skylarks were nesting on-site. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) does not look at species, so a habitat survey would not record Skylarks in the area. If acoustic recorders had been deployed on site, ecologists would know they were present – so well-rounded data will also help developers plan better, mitigating issues from the onset of construction. The BNG survey was designed to be consistent and relatively easy to use, and species surveys could prove to be more difficult because of inconsistencies and methodologies etc. With AI we can move to a new level of understanding. If you just stick the recorder out, it is consistent in how it works and removes bias.

Over 4,000 calls were detected from Meadow Pipits at Wendling Beck. Image by Kev Chapman via Flickr.

For those interested in bioacoustics, it is worth noting that you will be holding webinars from July. What can we expect from these sessions?  

We have three sessions lined up. The first one is on 7th July and is about measuring nature using sound. It’ll dig into both how the technology works and how it compares against other methods, and hopefully we’ll have an open discussion around its strengths and weaknesses. The session is intended for people who are interested in the subject, and we will go through some examples. 

This will be followed by two in the autumn, which are more technical and are perhaps more suited to professional ecologists. These sessions will be touching on some of the technology behind Wilder Sensing and some of the ways it should and shouldn’t be used.

What is Wilder Sensing hoping to achieve over the next decade?  

I am hoping to move onto other taxa, the obvious ones being insects and bats. We would also like to look at triangulation as well – if we can triangulate how birds and bats are using a landscape, we can use this to help inform better environmental management. I think this data will be used with other environmental data in the future. People doing nature restoration or project planning need to understand the water quality, air quality, the climate etc. to get a better environmental outcome. And even forward-looking companies, we can look at their supply chain as well.

An acoustic sensor deployed at Honeygar Farm. Image by Wilder Sensing.

Increasingly the media are reporting on the quietening of British soundscapes, a symptom of the biodiversity and climate crisis we are facing. How do you think Wilder Sensing will adapt to an increasingly quiet environment? Will technology need to adapt to keep up?  

Wilder Sensing technology will quantify exactly what is happening in the biodiversity crisis. I have a copy of the iconic Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which was published 60 years ago, and we haven’t learned from that. I think this type of technology will hold a mirror up to people to show exactly what is going on. I would love to get a good quality recording from 50 years ago, maybe two or three hours of dawn chorus in woodland, and go back to the same time of year in the same place (assuming it still exists) and compare it. Showing exactly that this is the difference in diversity.   


To find out more about the innovative work by Wilder Sensing, their blog features some interesting case studies on the applications of their technology and they are also active on LinkedIn. For more information on Wilder Sensing and their product, email info@wildersensing.com.   

 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 3rd June

Wildlife 

Ambitious project in south-west Wales aiming to restore one of the world’s most important habitats is getting underway. Two species of seagrass, Eelgrass (Zostera marina) and Dwarf Eelgrass (Zostera noltii) are being grown in ponds fed with seawater pumped in from the nearby Carmarthen Bay, and over the past two years alone this project has processed 1.5 million seeds. These have subsequently grown tens of thousands of plants that are now being reinstated in the wild to help restore the UK’s underwater seagrass meadows, 90% of which have vanished in the past 30 years alone. 

Photo taken with a camera lens half under water and half above water showing a thick seagrass forest.
Seagrass near body of water during daytime by Benjamin L Jones via unsplash.

Thriving Ecuador bird tourism is incentivising farmers to turn their agricultural land into nature reserves. Ecuador is home to over 1,600 species of bird, almost double the number found across the whole of Europe. As the country’s birding tourism grows, increasing numbers of farmers are turning their agricultural land into nature reserves to help preserve their stunning local wildlife. This is not only benefiting nature, but also the country’s economy as wildlife tourism offers a much more profitable livelihood than farming, resulting in some farmers expanding their land’s potential further than any traditional farming model would have provided. 

Critically endangered Devils Hole Pupfish population reaches a 25 year high. This rare species lives in the smallest known desert habitat of any vertebrate and is only found in the upper areas of a single limestone cave in the Mojave Desert, Nevada, where the whole population resides on a single shallow rock shelf. They have evolved to be able to withstand harsh desert conditions, including very high water temperatures and extremely low oxygen levels. In 2013, their population fell to just 35 individuals, but careful conservation efforts over the past 11 years have offered hope for this rare species as their population has now reached a 25-year record high of 191 fish. 

Environment 

The North Atlantic is set to be hit by more than double the normal number of hurricanes this season, warns NOAA. Researchers have suggested that this is predominantly due to high sea surface temperatures as a result of the upcoming transition between El Niño and La Niña which helps these storms grow more easily. Although there is no evidence showing that climate change is a contributing factor, it is likely to exacerbate the severity of these weather patterns. Contrastingly, NOAA have predicted a below-normal hurricane season for the central Pacific region where El Niño and La Niña work in opposition. 

Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti aerial photograph.
Hurricane Matthew hits Haiti by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s photostream, via flickr.

Purbeck Heath begins its transformation into an ancient savannah habitat to help precious species thrive. The National Trust’s lead ecologist for Purbeck, David Brown, explained that the project hopes to use domestic grazers such as wild cattle, pigs, ponies and deer to mimic their wild ancestors and shape the 1,370 hectares of open grassland in Dorset into a dynamic, complex and biodiverse ecosystem. Purbeck Heath is already one of the most diverse areas in the UK, and this project will aid the recovery of rare and threatened species such as Purbeck Mason Wasps, Heath Tiger Beetles and Sand Lizards. 

Climate 

Increased ocean temperatures are undercutting the Thwaites Glacier and causing glacial melt from below. This glacier is currently losing 75 billion tons of ice per year, accounting for nearly half the total ice lost from Antarctica per annum. Scientists have revealed that an estimated 150 million kilowatts of thermal power are injected into the ice with each undercutting intrusion, which could melt 20 meters of ice off the bottom of the glacier each year. Recent simulation to assess the effects saltwater invasion may have on retreat rates has revealed it could double the overall rate of ice loss for some glaciers. 

Thwaites Glacier photograph showing the edge of the glacial shelf with some small icebergs floating along the side of it.
22-01-21 04 Thwaites Glacier by Felton Davis, via flickr.

New research reveals the catastrophic effects of extreme heat, deoxygenation and acidification in the oceans due to fossil fuels and deforestation. In the top 300 meters of affected oceans, these compounded events are lasting three times longer and are six times more intense than in the 1960s. A fifth of the world’s ocean surface is susceptible to all three of these stresses at once, which has been further exacerbated in recent decades as extreme weather conditions have become more intense. Scientists warn that the extra CO2 absorbed by the oceans has increased the temperature and acidity of seawater, is dissolving the shells of sea creatures and starving the ocean of oxygen. This series of events is comparable to those experienced at the end of the Permian period 252 million years ago when the planet experienced the largest known extinction event in its history. 

This Week in Biodiversity News – 20th May

Climate crisis

Unusual spring weather is affecting bird migrations. The Wood Warbler, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to British oak woods every spring and depend on Oak Moth caterpillars to feed their young. In recent years, these caterpillars had already emerged and were pupating by the time the birds arrived, resulting in their chicks starving. This year, however, they are facing a new issue: as spring has been so wet and cold, many birds have not reached Britain yet, while those that have are having to search for food in cool weather and have not begun nesting. These shifts in long-term weather patterns are likely to continue to cause migration issues going forward due to their unpredictability. 

Pied flycatcher stood on the ground amongst small plants and grass.
Pied Flycatcher by hedera.baltica, via flickr.

The final Venezuelan glacier has been downgraded to an ‘ice field’ following large-scale glacial melt. This follows the loss of at least six other glaciers across the country in the last century due to an increase in global temperatures. In March 2024, researchers revealed that the Humboldt glacier had shrunk from 450 hectares to just two hectares. More recent observations show that, in the last two months it has reduced in size further to the area of just two football pitches. The latest projections suggest that between 20–80% of glaciers worldwide will be lost by 2100 as a result of climate change, with some of this loss already inevitable despite attempts to combat climate breakdown. 

Environment 

New record of Asian Hornet sightings threatens native pollination species. While Asian Hornets aren’t yet established in the UK, recent flooding and warm temperatures are increasing the risk of this species spreading across the country. Defra has warned that early detection and irradiation is the key to saving our native pollinator species who are known to feed on Honeybees. Since 2016, there have been 108 sightings of Asian Hornets, 56 of which were recorded last year alone. A further eight have been reported in the UK so far this year. Kent is on the front-line of the battle against this species with many of the UK sightings recorded in this county. 

Close up photo of an Asian hornet stood on some moss on a branch.
Asian hornet by Gilles San Martin, via flickr.

Pioneering project that makes eco-friendly concrete from crushed shells may be the answer to extreme flooding. A team at the University of Central Lancashire has developed an innovative, sustainable, permeable concrete made from recycled crushed scallop and whelk shells that would otherwise go to landfill when discarded by fishmongers. Trials are being undertaken in Blackpool to assess its effectiveness in gardens, footpaths and car parks, and early results are very positive. 

Over 8,000 hectares of land ‘left to nature’ to increase biodiversity. This restoration project, run by Forestry England and supported by both Forest Holidays and the Government, will be implemented in four areas across the UK: Castle Neroche, Somerset; Kielder Forest, Northumberland; Newtondale, North Yorkshire and Purbeck, Dorset. The project aims to minimise human involvement, allowing nature to shape these forest landscapes itself. Andrew Stinger, The Head of Environment at Forestry England, stated that, although the team is uncertain how these areas will evolve once human activity is reduced, they are confident they will become more biodiverse with the help of reintroduction initiatives, aid flood mitigation, improve air quality, and restore soil health.

Science 

Sea Otter coming up from under the water holding a crab.
Sea Otter by Bureau of Land Management California, via flickr.

Study reveals that female Sea Otters are using tools to help preserve their teeth. Researcher Chris Law documented the moment that a female Sea Otter used a rock anvil to open the shell of its next meal, a type of behaviour which has previously been witnessed in very few animals. Further investigation revealed that, when there’s a decline in their preferred food, female Sea Otters have evolved to use tools to allow them to overcome their weaker biting ability when compared to their male counterparts, which allows them to consume alternative, larger prey without damaging their teeth.