Archive | April 2012

At the weekend I went to the Locating the Nest Exhibition at Edinburgh Botanic Garden, which is well worth seeing. I’m a big fan of the work of Lizzie Farey but this piece (see photo) got me wondering. Here is a lovely piece of art, made from sustainably harvested willow and positioned, Zen-like, in a pretty body of water. However how much was the water disturbed to get the artwork there? It was put in recently, during a time when pond life would be starting to become active after the winter – were any plants harmed?  invertebrates? Any fish? What about the knock on effects for the birds that feed on the smaller pond-life?

(I’m not meaning to single out the Botanics or Lizzie Farey here. It just happens that this is the artwork that got me thinking).

You may think you’re doing something environmentally friendly, but does it have unintended consequences that aren’t so benign?

Modern life seems to be full of conundrums like this. The environmental aspect is often reduced to carbon footprint, but there are so many things to consider beyond carbon footprint – such as biodiversity and the environmental effects of the supply chain (I discuss some of this on my recent guest post about e-readers vs books on the Book after Book blog). Some things that reduce our carbon footprint can have negative impacts on biodiversity (for example large wind-farms positioned in delicate habitats such as peat bogs can damage the ecology of the area, ironic since peat bogs actually store carbon themselves and help to reduce emissions!)

How do you ensure that you minimise your overall environmental impact? Or do you focus on just one element of the environment, if so which and why? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more


Green Office Week

Green Office Week (14 – 18 May) is an action-packed week full of fun and simple ideas to make your office greener!

Each Day has its own focus to help you to concentrate your efforts on specific areas of green activity. For example Monday will focus on Energy and Tuesday will focus on Transport. You can find out more about the daily themes on the Green Office Week website.

You can get more involved by joining the Green League, which offers lots of exciting activities including a Junk Modelling Challenge!

The Green Office Week website also offers lots of inspiration with blog-posts and stories! There’s also a quiz to find out how green your office is!

Green Office Week is only for one week a year but can hopefully help you to make lasting changes in your office routine that make your organisation greener on an ongoing basis!

What steps are you taking to make your office more environmentally friendly? Share your ideas in the comments section below! And don’t forget to visit the Green Office Week website to find out more and to join in!

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Information Systems for Conservation

Information is vital to help conservation organisations work out the status of animal and plant species that they are trying to conserve, whether you work for a conservation organisation or are a keen amateur naturalist.

In the UK there are a number of websites that are useful to conservationists and also to those of us who enjoy watching wildlife in our own time. I am a keen birdwatcher and always enter my bird records onto Birdtrack. BirdTrack is a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club , that looks at migration movements and distributions of birds throughout Britain and Ireland.

BirdTrack provides facilities for observers to store and manage their own personal records as well as using these to support species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.

If you’re not sure about your bird identification, the RSPB website has some very useful resources to help you learn more.

If the seashore is more your thing, then you can add records the The Shore Thing. This is an initiative of MarLIN, the Marine Life Information Network, working with schools and volunteer recorders to collect information on the marine life of rocky shores around Britain. All the information collected will be made available online and will help to build a picture of how things are now to measure change in the future.

I-Spot is a brilliant venture from the Open University where anyone interested in nature can share their observations. Beginners can ask more experienced naturalists for help in identifying species and a result better records are available of the nature in this country.

Scotland has a network of Biological Record Centres that are always happy to receive your records of wildlife sightings. The BRISC website gives details of how biological recording works in Scotland and contact details for local record centres. You may want to contact your local centre to find out which types of records they are most interested in.

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government body charged with looking after Scotland’s natural environments. You can now search their wealth of data and information on SNHi.

These are just a few of the available resources in the UK. So whether you work in conservation, watch birds in your spare time or are just interested in how different organisations use information systems they’re worth checking out. And if you feel you want to learn more about nature, then these resources can help you learn too!

Do you know of other useful wildlife recording information systems in the UK or elsewhere for that matter?

You may also be interested in my recent article about citizen science on my Crafty Green Poet blog.

(This article first appeared on the Information Officers’ Support group blog, which is no rarely updated. The group though is a great one to join if you work in Not for profit information in Scotland. You can find out more on their Linked In page.)

As ever, text in bold contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages, where you can find out more.


AMEE has the simple but daunting aim of measuring the carbon footprint of everything. Gavin Starks from the organisation outlined their work at the recent Edinburgh Enlightenment Exchange at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (which I reviewed here).

AMEE aggregate environmental and energy data from over 300 sources to enable insight for intelligent decision making. So far they have integrated over 8 million pieces of data and have a search engine that finds and calculates emissions and info-graphics on a variety of topics. They can capture any data from any system. The household carbon calculator uses data from half a million households which can be fed into the system to create a smarter energy grid. They are also working on embedding environmental intelligence into product design, to ensure that new products have as low a carbon footprint as possible.

The AMEE website is well laid out and useful in helping you to reduce your carbon footprint.

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Edinburgh Enlightenment Exchange – Communicating Science

I was delighted to have a press ticket to the inspiring Edinburgh Enlightenment Exchange at Edinburgh International Science Festival on Saturday. I blogged about the whole event over on my Crafty Green Poet blog, but now I just want to share some of the brilliant ideas about science communication and collaboration that came out of the event:

Subathra Subramanium talked about Cape Farewell which offers a vital cultural response to climate change by organising voyages to the arctic for artists, scientists and young people to work and learn together. The scientists carry out real science researching the effects of climate change, the artists make pieces of work responding to the landscape, the science and their experiences which they then share with audiences across the world, the young people take part in the science, create their own works of art and when they return home they communicate their experiences to their schools and to other local schools.

Polly Arnold in her talk about improving nuclear waste disposal, came up with some wonderfully memorable metaphors such as comparing the electrons in the atom of a highly radioactive element to the pips in a pomegranate.

Richard Wiseman demonstrated some magic tricks and showed how much can be communicated about psychology by watching a magician carefully!

Angus Farquhar of NVA demonstrated how to alter people’s perceptions of well known landmarks by organising large scale arts events. His project Speed of Light has people wearing suits covered in LED lights running round Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in the dark.

Sabrina Mariscalco talked about how Quantum Circus use circus performance to communicate the ideas of quantum mechanics.


(these are my rewordings of statements from the named participants in the event)

For citizen science to be effective, people need to be given the tools to take part (Chris Lintock, Zooniverse)

To produce really creative work we have to play more and accept more grazed knees in the playground (Suzy Glass, Trigger)

I was also very impressed and interested in the AMEE project (which embedding environmental intelligence into everything!) but I think that deserves a blog post to itself in the next week or so. So make sure to check back!

Bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.