Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Mike Majerus Memorial Lecture 2012

On the day she delivers the first Mike Majerus Memorial Lecture, Dr Helen Roy of CEH reflects on just why Mike was such an inspirational scientist
Wonderful life: the legacy of an inspirational evolutionary biologist
Today I have the honour of giving the first Mike Majerus Memorial Lecture at the Royal Entomological Society's Annual Meeting (Ento ’12), hosted by Anglia Ruskin University. 
Mike Majerus was an evolutionary ecologist with an enthusiasm for science communication and collaboration that was simply inspirational.
I met Mike in his beloved field station at Cambridge University during the early days of my PhD studies and can vividly remember my excitement.  He had just published the New Naturalist Ladybirds – a book that had captivated me throughout the Christmas holidays.  Surrounded by ladybirds, aphids and students, with ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ playing in the background, Mike was in utopia.
Mike was inspirational to so many people because of his knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for working with others.  His ethos of collaboration resulted in a rich and productive research career – a wonderful life, not only for Mike, but also for those who had the opportunity to work with him.  He encouraged everyone to communicate their research as widely as possible and he epitomised this through the invigorating way he chose to convey his excitement in the natural world. 

Mike Majerus (right) describing ladybirds in winter for
BBC Radio 4's Saving Species programme.

Putting together the memorial lecture in his name has given me the opportunity to reflect on the many lessons that I learnt from Mike.  It follows on from a week in which I have attended a two-day meeting convened by the Convention on Biological Diversity to develop a global partnership addressing the threats of invasive non-native species. 
The context of the partnership demands effective communication and a spirit of collaboration in which all parties share information and work together - just the philosophy that Mike so eloquently advocated. 
Helen Roy

Additional information

The first Mike Majerus Memorial Lecture is delivered on Wednesday 18 July 2012 as part of the Royal Entomological Society's Ento '12 meeting (18-20 July). See the full programme [PDF, 2.26mb]

View slides from Helen's presentation [PDF, 1.96mb]

Dr Helen Roy's staff page at CEH

Nearly 2000 non-native species established in Great Britain (CEH News)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Mapping to inform conservation and habitat restoration

The latest issue of Science for Environment Policy, the European Commission’s environment news service for policy-makers, has highlighted a recent Biological Conservation paper by CEH scientists Dr Danny Hooftman and Prof James Bullock. Their paper, “Mapping to inform conservation: a case study of changes in semi-natural habitats and their connectivity over 70 years”, published earlier this year, developed an ecological mapping method to analyse habitat changes and declining ecological connectivity over large areas and in a 70-year period in high resolution.

The paper’s selection for inclusion in the Science for Environment Policy newsletter underlines its potential policy relevance at both the UK and European scale.

UK Land Cover Map 2000

During the research, funded by the EU SCALES project, the scientists digitised historic land use maps of Dorset from the 1930s and compared the results to CEH’s UK Land Cover Map from 2000* to assess the changes. The historic maps were a result of the first Land Utilisation Survey done in the UK in the 1930s, initiated by Laurence Dudley Stamp, later professor of geography at the London School of Economics, which is considered an early example of volunteer recording. 

After digitising the maps, the scientists combined the Dudley Stamp map with soil maps to derive a habitat classification, a method to make the habitat types comparable to the Broad Habitat Types of Land Cover Map 2000.  Their study revealed large decreases in semi-natural habitats and severely reduced connectivity among the remaining fragments. The most important driver for the loss was agricultural intensification combined with afforestation of grasslands and heathlands.

The findings have particular relevance as an important first step for those engaged in habitat restoration work at landscape and regional scales. Analyses such as those presented in the paper not only quantify the scale and pattern of habitat loss but are important to inform land-use planning to restore biodiversity.

Danny told us, “Although it is important to note a number of caveats to the approach, the work  shows the value of such maps to identify the magnitude of the land-use conflict problems for semi-natural habitats. Only when the spatial scale of connectivity and habitat size problems are properly quantified in a region, can mitigation measures be assigned with a higher chance of success for successful restoration.”

Additional information

"Mapping to inform conservation: a case study of changes in semi-natural habitats and their connectivity over 70 years" is published by Biological Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.09.015

More information on the Land Utilisation Survey maps

* Since the research began CEH has published an updated UK Land Cover Map. Click here for more details of Land Cover Map 2007.