Thursday, 21 August 2014

CEH scientists collaborating with global freshwater citizen science progamme

CEH scientists working on a project investigating water pollution in urban areas have teamed up with Earthwatch to train citizen scientists in carrying out water quality monitoring. The collaboration has come about via Earthwatch’s Freshwater Watch programme, which aims to study fresh water quality around the globe by engaging employees from participating organisations as citizen scientists.

The POLLCURB project, led by CEH, is looking at how water pollution relates to change in urban areas, in particular change brought about by population growth, and what it may mean for water quality and quantity in the future.

POLLCURB is collaborating with the Earthwatch programme by training citizen scientists, in this case employees from Shell, to monitor water quality in the river Thames and two of its tributaries, the Mole and Ember, using a handheld multiparameter probe.

CEH's Mike Hutchins (centre) teaching participants
how to use the probe. Photo: Richard Sylvester / Earthwatch.

Dr Mike Hutchins of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology is lead investigator on POLLCURB. At a recent citizen science training day at Wimbledon Common, Mike gave an overview of the project before teaching the budding citizen scientists from Shell how to use the monitoring probe, taking them into the field to gain first-hand practice.

Probe dunking. Photo: Richard Sylvester / Earthwatch.

The participants will visit the Thames sites several times over the next six months to collect data on temperature, turbidity, organic matter, algae and oxygen levels, producing a monthly dataset for each location. As well as collecting data for POLLCURB, they are also carrying out Freshwater Watch’s global parameters at each of the sites, which include collection data on nutrient levels.

Looking at the data collected. Photo: Richard Sylvester / Earthwatch.

Mike told us a little more about the value of the collaboration. He explained, "As POLLCURB is investigating how urban growth influences local water bodies I am keen to get people living in those very towns and cities involved and, in particular, for them to have the opportunity to use some of the equipment that professional scientists are currently using on a day-to-day basis.

"The data the citizen scientists are collecting will benefit me, in terms of improving the models I am using to predict river water quality, and also regulators, who will gain further knowledge of some specific rivers of interest to them."

Looking at results. Photo: Richard Sylvester / Earthwatch

Mike added, "The project with Earthwatch / Shell is flexible and I hope will gain some of its own momentum. There is potential to expand the number of sites or increase the frequency of visits, and also I am particularly enthusiastic about the scope for participants to monitor other local water bodies in which they may have a particular personal interest."

Earthwatch and CEH collaborators at one of the monitoring sites on the
Thames near Hampton Court. Photo: Mike Hutchins / CEH.

For more detailed information on the POLLCURB project, visit the project website.

Additional information

FreshWater Water has already recruited more than 1700 citizen scientists in over two dozen cities around the world. Data collected are uploaded to

Staff page and research interests of Dr Mike Hutchins, CEH

More about the citizen science training day from Earthwatch

Posted by Paulette Burns, Media Coordinator

Monday, 18 August 2014

A weekend at Birdfair

CEH's Biological Records Centre (BRC) teamed up with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) this weekend (15-17 August 2014) to co-host a stand at the hugely popular Birdfair annual event at Rutland. Birdfair attracts more than 20,000 wildlife enthusiasts of all ages and from many different countries and was an ideal venue to encourage more people to record their wildlife sightings. Records submitted through BRC's apps and iRecord website are used in research by CEH scientists and colleagues.

Visitors were able to see how easy it is to use BRC's range of recording apps, such as iRecord Ladybirds and iRecord Butterflies (and get an exciting sneak preview of the forthcoming grasshopper app!). It was also great to see interest in the forthcoming National Plant Monitoring Scheme, which involves both CEH and BSBI. 

A number of CEH scientists were in attendance to chat about their work and about the importance of recording wildlife... well as enjoy the efforts of our stand partners...

...and discover some of the other great research and volunteer efforts being highlighted at the show...

Thanks to everyone who took the time to pop by and have a chat! We hope you had a great show and continue to enjoy viewing (and recording!) wildlife.

There's an app for that...


Related links


Smartphone apps for citizen science and environmental recording

When and how to use citizen science: best practice guides from CEH

Posted by Paulette Burns, Media Coordinator

Monday, 11 August 2014

Understanding ladybird parasites

Scientists at CEH are working to better understand the natural enemies that attack ladybirds.

The arrival of the invasive alien harlequin ladybird in Britain and Ireland provided a new emphasis for research on ladybird-parasite interactions. Parasites of native ladybirds seem to find the harlequin less attractive, so will they adapt to this invader? We want to know!

Ladybird predators

There are very few predators of ladybirds. Ladybirds contain various mildly toxic and foul-tasting chemicals – their bright coloration is a warning to deter predation. But parasites do attack them, including some fascinating fungal pathogens. Two natural enemies are often considered among the most important causes of mortality in adult predatory ladybirds: the braconid wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, and pathogenic fungi within the genus Beauveria.

Dinocampus coccinellae adult and pupa with harlequin ladybird host.
Photo: Richard Comont

Dinocampus coccinellae

The wasp Dinocampus coccinellae lays eggs in adult ladybirds – a single wasp larva hatches within the ladybird and begins to feed on the host. Eventually it emerges to spin a cocoon between the legs of the ladybird in which it has developed. This parasite-host interaction can be observed in the field: the parasite cocoon is particularly conspicuous in the spring when it can be seen attaching 7-spot ladybirds (and others) to various surfaces such as fence posts and trees.

The fungus: Beauveria

The most common pathogen attacking ladybirds is the fungus Beauveria bassiana which causes ‘white muscardine’ disease in many insects. It persists as tiny spores, usually in soil but also on tree bark or leaves. The fungus spreads by infecting overwintering ladybirds in sheltered spots such as crevices or leaf litter. Scientists at CEH have shown that ladybirds avoid places with lots of fungal spores and move away from ladybirds that succumb to the disease.

Beauveria bassiana infection (late stage) of (left to right) harlequin, 7-spot
and 2-spot ladybird adults. Photo: Helen Roy

Other parasites

Tiny scuttle flies can attack ladybird pupae. There is also a beautiful yellow fungus that grows as fruiting bodies on the surface of ladybirds.

Helping our scientists

Send your records by emailing or upload sightings of Dinocampus to iRecord at

Ladybird app

The free iRecord Ladybirds mobile phone app for iPhones and Android devices makes it very easy to upload your records of ladybirds to the UK Ladybird Survey.

iRecord Ladybirds app from iTunesiRecord Ladybirds app on Google Play
Related CEH links

Harlequin ladybirds escape enemies while native species succumb 3 Dec 2013

Staff page and research interests of Dr Helen Roy

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Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc.

Posted by Paulette Burns

Friday, 25 July 2014

Royal Meteorological Society members visit CEH

Members of the Royal Meteorological Society's Meteorological Observing Systems Special Interest Group have paid a visit to CEH to learn more about aspects of our monitoring work. The visitors were given a tour of our Meteorological Station at Wallingford (thankfully the weather was warm and sunny at the time!) and also heard more details about its history and observations from site manager Katie Muchan:

The visitors also heard a presentation from Dr Gareth Old about CEH's River Lambourn Observatory and research into chalk river systems:

Dr Jonathan Evans of CEH also presented on progress and early results from COSMOS-UK, the UK soil moisture monitoring network. The network will deliver real-time weather monitoring and field scale measurements of soil moisture across the United Kingdom.

Members of the RMetS Special Interest Group on Meteorological Observing Systems visit
CEH's Wallingford Meteorological Station, July 2014. Photo: Paul Fisher/ CEH

Further reading

Winter 2013/2014 rainfall records at CEH's Wallingford meteorological station 

A window on weather conditions at Wallingford

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Surface water flood risk forecasting system operational in Glasgow as Commonwealth Games begin

As the 2014 Commonwealth Games get underway in Glasgow today (23 July 2014), organisers are probably hoping the next two weeks will stay dry and pleasant for everyone travelling to and from the various locations being used across the city. However, they’ll still be interested in the news that the Glasgow surface water flood forecasting model became operational this month – thought to provide the UK’s first operational grid-based surface water flood risk forecast with a 24-hour lead time.

Surface water flooding occurs when rainfall is unable to enter a watercourse or artificial drainage system and instead ponds or flows across the surface. In Scotland, the National Flood Risk Assessment (NFRA) estimates that 38% of flooding impacts are due to surface water (NFRA, 2011). Providing real-time surface water flood risk forecasts is challenging due to the dominant meteorological driver being convective storms, which are often highly localised and notoriously difficult to forecast.

Hampden Park, Glasgow
Hampden Park is one of the venues for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Photo by Jmorrison230582 in public domain.

The new surface water flood risk forecasting system has been developed by the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service (a strategic partnership between the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Met Office), working with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), Deltares and James Hutton Institute. The system builds on complementary CEH research on surface water flooding that is co-funded by the Environment Agency and undertaken within the Natural Hazards Partnership.

CEH’s Grid-to-Grid model (Moore et al., 2006, 2007; Bell et al., 2009) is a key component of the new tool. CEH scientists Bob Moore and Steve Cole provided pre-operational training in the system to SEPA and Met Office staff.

Steve Cole highlighted that, “Due to high uncertainty in forecasting the precise location of rainfall, particularly in convective situations, a probabilistic ensemble approach has been needed for the new Glasgow surface water flood risk forecast tool. A particularly novel aspect is that the tool goes beyond forecasting the likely location of surface water flooding to embrace information on potential impacts on people, property and transport. This should help emergency responders make more timely and better informed decisions.”

Further information on the new system is available from the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, who provide regular progress updates:

More information on the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) project

Surface water flood forecasting for urban communities

Monday, 21 July 2014

International Hydrology in UNESCO: recent developments and future plans

The Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme met in Paris for its 21st Session last month (June 2014). Professor Alan Jenkins and Dr Harry Dixon of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) were both in attendance. The Council meets every two years to consider the Programme’s current progress and future plans.

Representatives of more than 90 Member States were joined by representatives of UNESCO Water Centres, other UN organizations and NGOs to discuss progress with what is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN system devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building.

Prof Jenkins chairs the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology, which has its secretariat at CEH and which coordinates the UK contribution to UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. As such, Prof Jenkins headed the UK delegation to the recent Council session, supported by Dr Dixon and the UK’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. Prof. Geoffrey Gooch (University of Dundee) also attended representing the Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO, based at the University of Dundee.

As has been the case previously, this year’s Council session was scheduled to directly follow the IAHS/UNESCO 11th Kovacs Colloquium. This allows the Council’s debates to be informed by the science presented and discussed at the Colloquium - which this year focused on “Water Security: Past, Present and Future”.

With its eighth phase, ‘Water Security: Responses to Local, Regional, and Global Challenges’, due to run from 2014 to 2021, a large element of this year’s Council Session was devoted to the forward planning of the Programme. Plans for implementing activities under IHP-VIII’s six Themes were outlined and more details of these can be found on the UNESCO website.  A proposal to establish a ‘World’s Large Rivers Initiative’ was approved and the Council took steps to implement a review of all other IHP Programmes and initiatives over coming years to ensure they best meet the needs of Member States.

Infographic showing six main themes of IHP-VIII on water security
Main themes of IHP-VIII: Water security - responses to local, regional, and global challenges (2014-2021)

Discussions regarding the Post-2015 development agenda for water concluded with the adoption of a Resolution recommending that the IHP work with UN-Water partners to develop a monitoring and assessment framework to support the implementation of any water related goals and targets.

Further information about the IHP can be found on the UNESCO website.

Related CEH links

Staff page of Prof Alan Jenkins

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon

CEH news: CEH plays key role in UK election to Intergovernmental Council of UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme 

Further information about the UK's involvement in the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme

posted by Paulette Burns 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Mapping natural capital

A presentation from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) on mapping natural capital. In the first section, Dr Lisa Norton talks about modelling approaches using site survey for national scale mapping, explaining why natural capital is mapped and how it is useful for land managers, with examples including Countryside Survey and the UK Soil Observatory.

In the second part of the talk, John Watkins of CEH focuses on the Ecomaps application, which will enable researchers to take such work forward.