By Ross MacLeod, GWCT Head of Policy (Scotland)
For anyone of a certain age like me, grasping the uses of smart phone apps and technology can sometimes be challenging, but in the case of Epicollect, the advantages were apparent from the start!
The free-to-use Epicollect App was first developed by Imperial College in London. It provides for both PC and mobile collection of information through creation of questionnaire forms. Through links to Google, it can store locational information both on- and off-line, which makes it very useful for a variety of area-based surveys.
GWCT Scotland first started using Epicollect at our demonstration farm in Aberdeenshire to maintain predator control and habitat management information. This type of information gathering will have increasing relevance, particularly as we enter an era in which land management, whether farming, forestry or on moorland, will need to produce evidence of sound work – what we like to call ‘Best Practice with Proof’.
One of the first things we used Epicollect for on the farm was to accurately locate and record our predator control results. This allows us to better target our efforts to protect wading bird nests. Since then, we’ve also tested Epicollect as a practical way to record mountain hare numbers for the new Scottish Natural Heritage approved night-time counting methodology. This paved the way for thinking about how we can further equip keepers and land managers with a simple, effective tool to record a variety of moorland management information. Using the app, the facility to record birds of prey is a further step in that evolution.
We are aiming to get this approach off the ground to make evidence-led recording a bit easier for everyone but also in a way that can provide a credible view as to conservation status of key raptor species.
We’ve had lots of useful discussions so far with land managers and keepers across the scottish uplands about raptor recording on Epicollect, which has been really helpful in developing approaches for consistent recording over both time and areas. So far, this review work has taken us to the Grampians, Strathspey, Tayside and the Southern Uplands. We have more discussions to come which will also extend the dialogue into England.
Looking further ahead, we will consider how we could use the app to plan and monitor muirburn. In the meantime, we are concentrating on ensuring that raptor recording is both easy to carry out and systematic in approach. As they say, watch this space for further development!
Photo credit: Graeme Hart - Perthshire Picture Agency